Van der Burgh secures Olympics spot

Leading South African swimmer Cameron van der Burgh clinched a place at the 2012 London Olympics by winning the 100m breaststroke at the national championships on Tuesday.

Considered the best South African hope for a swimming medal at the Games, Van der Burgh triumphed at the Kings Park pool in 59.90 seconds, just under a second inside the qualifying mark.

“It is just pure emotion that I feel right now,” said Van der Burgh. “I have not been competing a lot over the past few months, with most of my efforts going into training.”

Chad le Clos and Kathryn Meaklim, considered long shots for medals at the July 27 to August 12 Games in the English capital, also secured passports to the quadrennial multi-sport showpiece.

Le Clos won the 400m individual medley in 4:13.86 from Riaan Schoeman, who also dipped under the Olympics qualifying mark with 4:15.60 in Durban.

“This is huge for me,” said Le Clos, “because it is the Olympic Games we are talking about. After starting the race so fast I wondered whether I would make it. Thankfully, I hung on to swim inside the time.”

Schoeman was equally jubilant: “This takes a lot of pressure off me for the rest of the week. I have three races to go, but this was the main one. I’m really thrilled to have made it.”

Meaklim won the women’s 400m individual medley in 4:37.70 — more than four seconds inside the qualifying mark — and admitted to being relieved after her success.

“Coming into the gala there is always pressure because you know this is it — you have to do it here and now. I am so, so happy to have secured a place at the Games.”

No South African swimmer won a medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and London hopefuls must match or better qualifying marks twice to book places with one of the times having to be achieved during the week-long national championships. — AFP

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