JOHANNESBURG – South Africa’s swimmers produced three stunning performances with Chad le Clos, Cameron van der Burgh and Tatjana Schoenmaker claiming the top step at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games on Monday.
Each performance had its own significance in the history of South African swimming and would occupy a special place in the swimmers’ careers.
London 2012 Olympic champion Van der Burgh set the tone when he claimed a hat-trick of 50m breaststroke titles at the Games.
The 29-year-old Van der Burgh did it in style as he beat world record-holder and breaststroke superstar Adam Peaty to successfully defend his title for the second time.
The London 2012 Olympic champion made sure he got a lead on Peaty and he held on for dear life to beat the Briton by 0.04 touching the wall in 26.58 seconds.
“To get the triple as well in the 50m breaststroke, as a Games experience it started 12 years ago in 2010, and to finish it on such a high something really special,” Van der Burgh said. “Obviously Adam and I have a really tough rivalry and he has had the upper-hand over me the last few years.
“So, to get on top of the podium and seeing my flag up there and hearing my national anthem being played is going to be, if I look back on my career it is going to be one of the highlights.”
In the very next race, Schoenmaker raced to her second gold medal at the quadrennial showpiece by smashing Penny Heyns’ South African and African record clocking 1:06.42.
Schoenmaker shaved 0.1 off the South African legend’s record from 1999 which was a world record at the time.
She completed her ascension as the queen of South African swimming earlier in the Games when she smashed the African 200m breaststroke chopping more than a second off Suzaan van Bijon’s continental record she set at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Schoenmaker became the first able-bodied female swimmer since Joan Harrison at the 1954 Vancouver Games to win a gold medal at the multi-sport event.
“This one hasn’t sunk in yet, I got emotional, but I feel like a lot will still come, probably when I am in my bed when I am about to fall asleep,” Schoenmaker said. “I definitely exceeded my own expectations, all I wanted to do was to come here and swim a PB which I did, and bonus I got the medal so I am super happy.
“The 200m was my big one, with this one I am just happy that it was half the distance. I was happier about the 200m but the 100m is amazing, I didn’t ever think I would medal in the 100m.”
Le Clos completed South Africa’s gold rush in the pool bagging the golden butterfly treble adding the 100m title to his haul at the Gold Coast Games.
The South African sensation was again in a class of his own as he smashed into the wall first with a new Commonwealth 100m butterfly record of 50.65 seconds.
He finished ahead of James Guy of England in second place with 50.65 with Australia’s Grant Irvine taking bronze in 51.50.
Le Clos boasts the gold in the 50m, 100m and the 200m butterfly while he also won the 100m freestyle silver medal to become the most decorated Commonwealth swimmer with a total of 16 medals.
“It is an amazing evening not only for swimming but also for athletics, we won gold and silver in the 100m on the track (Akani Simbine and Henricho Bruintjies),” Le Clos said of South Africa’s magical day.
“Cameron (Van der Burgh) got us started with a win over the world record-holder and Tatjana Schoenmaker, the new star in the making.
“It is probably the best night we’ve ever had in Commonwealth history, it is nine medals on day five which is unbelievable.”
Para-swimmer Christian Sadie added to South Africa’s special day in the pool winning silver in the S7 50m freestyle.
I am very happy to have won the silver, there is a lot of tough competition here, I wasn’t too happy with my race. It didn’t go according to plan but I am happy with the medal and to get this experience.”