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LONDON, England, July 29. THE second world record of the evening ended another potential record from happening as South Africa's Cameron van der Burgh overhauled the field and the global standard in the men's 100 breast final at the 2012 London Olympics.
Van der Burgh blasted out to a 27.07 at the 50-meter mark, more than half-a-second under Brenton Rickard's world-record pace, before bringing it home in record time with a blistering 58.46. That performance clipped Rickard's global standard of 58.58 set at the 2009 World Championships, and gave South Africa its first Olympic gold in the event's history. Notably, his time also bettered the emotion-driven textile best of 58.71 clocked by Norway's Alexander Dale Oen last summer in tribute to a massacre in Norway just days before the World Championships in Shanghai. Dale Oen then passed away unexpectedly before this summer as he trained to defend his silver medal from the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Van der Burgh, a longtime friend of Dale Oen's, gave a salute skyward after finishing the race, most likely to pay tribute to his fallen friend.
“It is just a feeling I can't describe right now,” van der Burgh said. “The last four years, a lot of work has gone into this moment. Everything paid off. If there is such a thing as a perfect race I definitely did it at the right time. I do not even care about the world record. It doesn't phase me once you become an Olympian champion they can never take it away from you.”
Australia's Christian Sprenger ripped off a 58.93 of his own to move to sixth all time and win his country's first silver medal in the event's history. Australia had previously won three bronzes, but never could get over the third-place hump.
“The first 50 (metres) I set up really well,” Sprenger said. “When I saw 58 (seconds on the clock), I thought it was a mistake. I put everything together, it was a perfect race. Sometimes you just have that swim and everything falls into place. For me that was tonight. Coming here and doing that swim just means the world”
USA's Brendan Hansen, who made a comeback at 30 years old, also moved onto the podium with a bronze-winning time of 59.49. He's been faster, with an American textile best of 59.13 in Irvine in 2006, but he will take his second medal in the event. He finished second to Kosuke Kitajima in 2004. He becomes just the fifth swimmer to ever medal twice in the event's history (Kitajima, John Hencken, Hugues Duboscq, Peter Evans).
“In my mind I really wanted to win a medal,” Hansen said. “I never counted myself out like everyone else in this world did. Being in lane 8 I knew I could swim my own race and I did my best. That is as fast as I can go right now and I am really pleased with the outcome.”
Hungary's Daniel Gyurta finished just off the podium with a fourth-place 59.53, while two-time defending gold medalist Kitajima witnessed his threepeat bid come to an end with a fifth-place 59.79. Kitajima had been vying to become the first male swimmer to ever win an event in three straight Olympics. Dawn Fraser and Krisztina Egerszegi have done it for the women. He still has another chance in the 200 breast later in the meet.
“I am disappointed that I couldn't do my best,” Kitajima said. “I am disappointed not to have given all in the best (swimming) competition. But I think this was the best that I could do. I was thinking a lot of things in the last three days and started having doubts while swimming. This was very disappointing. I didn't have any technique I could be confident in, something I could think 'Yes, I can go with this'. When my legs are moving OK, then my arms get bad.”
Kosuke continued as he spoke on several subjects with the media.
“I was aiming the time I swam at the Japan national championships,” Kitajima said. “I could have stood on the podium with that time today. But when I was asked if I could swim 58.4 today, it was impossible. I shouldn't say 'I cannot make it' but I don't have the ability to do it. My PB is 58.9. So I am disappointed not to reach the time. Cameron's performance was great, I am proud that I could swim with him today.”
Kitajima also spoke about his lengthy break after the 2008 Beijing Games.
“I made a lot of effort on myself and I prioritized myself instead of someone else,” Kitajima said. “I have enjoyed the comeback process until now but it may not be linked to the result tonight. But I still have a chance in the 200m. It is going to be a high-level race. I have to think about the 200m more seriously.”
Kitajima talked about missing Norway's Alexander Dale Oen as well.
“He is not here,” Kitajima said. “He would have performed well if he was here today. I believe Cameron, me and everyone think like that. I am missing him and people in Norway also were sad about that. He competed with me four years ago so I wanted to do something for him today. But my performance was a bit poor.”
Former world-record holder Rickard took sixth in 59.87, while Italy's Fabio Scozzoli (59.97) and Lithuania's Giedrius Titenis (1:00.84) rounded out the championship heat.
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