CAMERON van der Burgh easily won the 100m breaststroke in Durban yesterday morning, but more important were the smiles he flashed afterwards.
His 1min 01.79sec is considerably slower than the 58.46 world record he owns, but then again, this grand prix gala was never about times.
“The morning finals make things tough,” Van der Burgh, whose Tuks club finished top of the standings, ahead of Johannesburg-based Waterborn and Seagulls from Pinetown, said.
The two-gala grand prix series had morning finals, forcing swimmers to go faster in the mornings to get used to the high-pressure heats they face at international events.
National coach Graham Hill said the galas – the first of the series was in Stellenbosch last weekend – had been useful. “They need to race. Normally these people only race each other at nationals [in April].”
Hill was able to give words of comfort to Leith Shankland, who went nearly a full second faster helping Seagulls win the mixed 4x100m freestyle relay yesterday than he did while winning the 100m freestyle final the day before.
Shankland’s schoolgirl teammate, Erin Gallagher, 16, won the women’s 100m freestyle in 56.38, but she is looking to go 55.05 at nationals in a bid to qualify for the world championships in Russia in August.
Other promising youngsters to win yesterday were Tatjana Schoenmaker (50m and 200m breaststroke) and Marlies Ross (400m freestyle), who are both 17.
Michael Andrew, the talented 15-year-old American who has dual nationality, finished off the series winning the 50m freestyle, although his 23.34 won’t make the world’s best sprinters worry just yet.
While the Stellenbosch gala was sold out at R100 a ticket, the bigger King’s Park pool facility failed to draw crowds, despite the presence of reigning Olympic champions Van der Burgh and Chad le Clos.
Le Clos competed on the first day, but withdrew on Saturday morning struggling with illness.