Cameron Van Der Burgh won the 50m breaststroke, earning his first Gold Medal of the Championships. That alone would have made it a great day for the South African’s, but Giulio Zorzi, Van Der Burgh’s South African teammate, touched third, earning the Bronze medal. It is great to see two teammates finish on the podium. Several other countries have seen both of their swimmers finish in the top 3, but this is the first of the Championships for South Africa. What makes this even more special is the Cameron and Giulio have been training partners for years.
Gil Levy, one of their old coaches, was able to dig out a great photo for us of the two boys together when they were younger. In the picture, Giulio Zorzi is on the far left and Cameron Van Der Burgh is directly to the right of Zorzi.
Cameron came to swim for Gil Levy right after finishing his learn-to-swim program as a boy. Here is Coach Levy’s account of his experiences with Cameron and Giulio.
“Cameron came to swim at Hillcrest Swim Club where I was coaching. He swam in my age-group squad but was very quickly integrated into the more senior squad. The Head Coach at the time was Lionel Durrant but when Lionel became ill with Cancer (passed away 16 July 2013 – aged 75) – I took over responsibility for the club and developed Cameron alongside the seniors toward provincial and national level. Although never the biggest of the boys in his age groups – as we can still see amongst the international swimmers competing right now – he had an insatiable appetite for hard work and he adores competing. He has always been able to find more gears and loves “red lining it”.
I was on a steep learning curve as a young swimming coach and he was the perfect guinea pig athlete to try new/different ideas on. He adapted immediately and was always eager to learn and take things on board. One of his greatest assets was/is to form incredibly tight bonds and relationships with his coaches and mentors. He is an incredibly positive with an enthusiastic humour and positivity that radiates energy in all that he does. We have a very close friendship and mutual trust respect and understanding.
I used to help him with his school homework. I promised him an iPhone (which at the time was unavailable in South Africa) should he break the WR. He did the next week and held me to it. He’s always messaged me from around the world – has a great knack for it being about 2am in London; sometimes for advice (usually about girls), opinions about his training, or to offload on when the pangs of homesickness set in. Cameron has spent time staying with me in London – working with my London based swimmers; chatting to them, motivating them, educating them and swimming with them as well as me. I won’t deny that the swimming mums in the gallery upstairs are always buzzing as much as their children, enjoying the eye candy on show. He has stayed with me and numerous time while on the competitive circuit in Europe and on/off during the London 2012 Olympics. The night of his Olympic Gold Medal in WR time was the “stuff dreams are made of.” It was the live – in realtime – Hollywood / Disney Film ready for the making.
It was a tough evening leaving him and the swimclub behind when I departed for London,UK.
Cameron then went on to train with Francois Boshoff at the mighty Pretoria Aquatic Club where Giulio Zorzi and Giulio’s brother were training and becoming formidable athletes. It’s also where Gerhard Zandberg trained and where Grant Kritzinger – the SA based coach currently working alongside Cameron and Giulio – was developing into one of SA’s future bright prospects.
From there – Cameron progressed to training with Dirk Lange who had become SA Head Coach and dragged Giulio with him to go and train there too.
While I never coached Giulio, I had the privilege of watching him grow up at Pretoria Boys High School which we both attended and I returned to – to teach English and Phys Ed. there. The two of them are inseparable, constantly clowning around with a lust for life and a zest for the opportunities they work & train so hard for – to their fullest.”
Their friendship and support has benefitted them in and out of the pool. It is great to see two best friends pushing each other to be the best they can be, supporting each others goals, and accomplishing them together.
Thank you to Gil Levy, Grant Kritzinger, Cameron Van Der Burgh, and Giulio Zorzi for contributing to these articles.