Cameron Van Der Burgh
Cameron Van Der Burgh is a South African breaststroke sprint specialist and multi-time Olympian. Born May 25, 1988 Van Der Burgh is originally from Pretoria, South Africa and picked up swimming from a young age. Aside from winning numerous World Championship titles and being a World Record Holder in the 50-meter breaststroke, Van Der Burgh is also an icon in South Africa in fashion, entertainment and more. He has also studied Financial Management with hopes of entrepreneurship after swimming.
Van Der Burgh first broke out in 2007 when he qualified for his first World Championships and picked up a bronze medal. By 2009 he was well on his way to a World Record at the South African Nationals. Already swimming a great meet Van Der Burgh broke the World Record in semi-final of the 50-meter breaststroke, shaving some time off of a seven-year old record. In the same year he won the world title in the event in Rome, winning his first gold medal from a World Championships.
2008 Beijing Olympics
Van Der Burgh qualified for the Beijing Olympics just moments after being recognized on the international scene for the first time. In Beijing he advanced to the semi-finals of the 100-meter breast, but failed to qualify for the championship final after finishing 5th in his heat. He also competed on the 4×100-meter medley relay, which finished 7th overall.
After breaking his first World Record Van Der Burgh took on the 2010 Commonwealth Games, where he took gold in the 50-meter breast in a new Commonwealth Games Record. Later in the year he swam at the 2010 Short Course World Championships, this time taking another world title in the 100-meter breast. At the 2011 South African National Championships, Van Der Burgh took gold in the 50-meter breast setting the world’s leading time.
2012 London Olympics
After racking up a few medals in international and national competitions, Van Der Burg was prepared going into London. With the super suit era behind him, he raced to gold in the 100-meter breast after taking out the first 50 meters in a blazing split, and broke the World Record in the process.
London’s dolphin kick dilemma
After picking up his first Olympic gold medal Van Der Burgh then made headlines after admitting that he had cheated in the underwater pullout part of the race. Underwater video clearly showed Van Der Burgh completed three dolphin kicks after diving into the water off the blocks. Many swimmers in the field could be seen doing the same, and controversy erupted when he mentioned that, “Everybody’s doing it … not everybody, but 99 per cent.” The controversy forced FINA to have to act on new dolphin kick regulation.
2013 World Championships
After originally releasing a statement that he would miss the 2013 World Championships due to a shoulder injury, Van Der Burgh’s name was on South Africa’s World Championship Team. He competed in the meet as the current World Record holder, but was just a half second off of his best time set in London. He touched in the wall in 2nd to Christian Sprenger. A few nights later he rebounded to out-touch Sprenger for gold in the 50.
In 2014 Van Der Burgh was one of 54 people announced as a recipient of the 2014 National Orders. He earned an Order of Ikhamanga, which “recognises South African citizens who have excelled in the fields of arts, culture, literature, music, journalism, and sport.” The award came just a few months after Van Der Burgh was an honorable mention for the 2013 Swammy Award for the Male African Swimmer of the Year.
2015 World Championships
As just one of five swimmers that South Africa sent to the 2015 World Championships, Van Der Burgh was lined up to swim his two signature events. In the preliminary heats of the 50-meter breast Van Der Burgh shocked when he swam under the World Record time by just a few hundredths of a second. Although he broke the Record in the preliminaries, he couldn’t crack the time in the semi’s or finals, losing out to GBR’s up-and-comer Adam Peaty. In the 100-meter event Van Der Burgh was up once again against Peaty. The two approached the race with pretty different styles — Van Der Burgh took the race out in a nearly World Record 50-meter pace and Peaty took out the race nearly half of a second behind. Van Der Burgh couldn’t hold on the last 50 meters as Peaty had a strong finish, pushing Van Der Burgh to 2nd by just .07 seconds.
2016 Rio Olympics
In the 100 meter breaststroke, Van Der Burgh was again pitted against heavy favorite, Adam Peaty. At the halfway point, Van Der Burgh turned in second behind Peaty. Over the final stretch, it was a battle for second with Peaty a body length ahead for the gold. Van Der Burgh held on to take the silver in 58.69. He also competed in the 200 meter breaststroke, finishing 26th, and the 4×100 meter medley relay where South Africa finished 13th.
2017 World Championships
Van Der Burgh only swam the 50 meter breaststroke in Budapest after pulling out the 100. He touched home in 26.60 to take the bronze medal. He was just 0.08 behind Joao Gomes who took the silver. Peaty again won the gold medal.
2018 Commonwealth Games
Van Der Burgh set a personal best in the 50 breaststroke (26.58) en route to the gold medal at the Commonwealth Games. He also earned a bronze in the 100 breast (59.44).
2018 Short Course World Championships
On day 2 of competition, van der Burgh touched first in the men’s 100 breast, starting with an explosive 1st 50 and hanging on to the lead through the 2nd. This was his first short course world title in the event since 2010, and his 2nd in the event overall. Moments after being crowned world champ, he announced he would be retiring at the conclusion of the competition. In the last swim of his career, on the last day of the meet, van der Burgh once again exploded off the blocks and never looked back, touching first in the 50 breast with a textile world record of 25.41. This was the second fastest performance ever, overshadowed only by his own world record from 2009.