A jubilant Olympic governing body SASCOC congratulated swimmer Cameron van der Burgh on his and South Africa’s first gold medal at the 2012 Olympic Games in London on Sunday.
Twenty-four-year-old Van der Burgh powered his way to an Olympic and world record time of 58.46 seconds in the 100-metre breaststroke event after setting an Olympic record of 58.83 in Saturday night’s semi-finals.
It was South Africa’s first medal of the 2012 Games and came on just the second day of competition at the Aquatic Centre.
“We’re up and running,” beamed SASCOC Chief Executive Officer Mr Tubby Reddy as the nation celebrated Van der Burgh’s victory.
“Here’s hoping his victory will rub off on and inspire the rest of Team South Africa to follow in his wake and win even more medals here in London.”
Pretoria based Van der Burgh’s medal means that they’ve already equalled their medal success of the last Games in Beijing four years ago where they won just one medal, Khotso Mokoena’s silver in the long jump.
Reddy says Van der Burgh’s success was also testimony to the hard work put in by the South African sports movement during the Games build-up.
“We have done extensive preparation in terms of funding our top athletes with the Operation Excellence programme, boosted our coaching prowess and embraced all areas of expertise and it’s great to see that paying off.”
Van Der Burgh will win R400,000 cash which SASCOC put on the table as an extra incentive to win gold.
Said Sports Minister Mr Fikile Mbalula: “This must rank as one of South Africa’s proudest sporting moments. The entire South African nation salutes Cameron van der Burgh on his magnificent performance.”
SASCOC President Gideon Sam also got in on the special feeling: “What a truly defining moment for Team South Africa at the 2012 Olympic Games.”
Van der Burgh’s medal was also the first by an African country at these Olympic Games and was the 20th medal won by South Africa since re-admission to international sport at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.
It puts them one ahead of north African powerhouse Nigeria who with a population of 123 million dwarf South Africa’s population of just over 50 million.-www.sascoc.co.za