Swimming world champ Cameron van der Burgh believes South Africa’s performance at the Fina World Championships in Barcelona last week was enough to prove the athletes worthy of corporate sponsorship.
“We do perform and bring it to the table, like we brought ammunition after the Olympics,” Van der Burgh said today at OR Tambo International Airport.
“Maybe for a lot of corporates, they thought we were a flash in the pan, but we’ve proved to them that we can deliver – time and time again – and swimming is a worthy investment.
“It is now up to the administrators to put in the hard work and secure the sponsorship.”
The South African team did better than ever before in terms of gold medals – winning three – and the last time they collected a five-medal haul was in Melbourne in 2005.
Van der Burgh returned with a gold medal in the 50m breaststroke and a silver in the 100m breaststroke, while swimming partner Giulio Zorzi grabbed bronze in the 50m breaststroke.
Olympic medallist Chad le Clos emerged as the golden boy of South African swimming, finishing first in the 100m and 200m butterfly events.
The 25-year-old Van der Burgh’s performance was particularly impressive given that he had taken a six-month break after the 2012 London Olympics and had been hampered by injuries in the build-up to the world championships.
While Van der Burgh narrowly lost to Australian Christian Sprenger in his Olympic event, the Pretoria-based swimmer said he was more than happy with his performance in the 100m breaststroke.
“I am pretty surprised by the times we were swimming. It’s very close to my world record, which is more important. Sometimes, you look at the times instead of the placings,” he said.
“So my time is standing me in good stead for the next three years, looking towards Rio in 2016, and I am a lot more motivated than I was a few months ago.”
Van der Burgh said his performances at the world championships had given him a new lease on his career after the “high” he had experienced in London a year ago.
“There is such a thing as post-Olympic depression and you sit back and you don’t know what is going to happen next,” Van der Burgh said.
“You’ve achieved all the goals that you set, done all the world records and won all the gold medals.
“But after these championships, I have found the motivation I needed.”
To add to the occasion of winning gold at the championships, Van der Burgh’s long-time friend and swimming partner, Zorzi, joined him on the podium for the 50m breaststroke.
“It is one of the most special moments in my career – to stand there (on the podium) with your best mate, locking arms to sing the national anthem. It was almost like winning the Olympic gold medal again.
“It brought back some memories.”
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