Cameron van der Burgh aims to fulfil a childhood dream of Olympic gold at London 2012: "We want to nail it. We know we have the opportunity. Now we just have to make sure the hard work and effort we put in will pay off. I'm feeling really excited," the 24-year-old tells AFP at holding camp in Monaco, nailing it a nod to his target in the 100m breaststroke as well as a team ambition to get off the blocks four years after returning empty handed from Beijing.
A finance student from the University of Pretoria was in good spirits despite a break-in at his home on the eve of his leaving for Monte Carlo and a camp organised by Princess Charlene (Wittstock) of Monaco, a former Olympic swimmer for South Africa. The thieves stole Va der Burgh's world-championship medals. "I gotta keep positive," he said.
Commonwealth champion in India two years ago in both the 50m and 100m breaststroke, Van der Burgh is ranked 4th in the 100m so far this year.
One of the two main men in his path remains: Japan's quadruple Olympic champion Kosuke Kitajima. The other will not be there to race for what he had trained to achieve: Alexander Dale Oen (NOR), 100m Olympic silver in Beijing and the world title to hiscredit last year, passed away on the last day of April at a training camp in Arizona, a heart condition the cause of death.
Dale Oen once said that he had no fear of death after an incident with Van der Burgh out at sea: the pair were on a rubber tube being towed by a boat off the South African coast when a Killer Whale flew out of the water metres away. De Burgh recalled: "It was close to us, and it was huge. I thought, 'this is it'.". Dale Oen smiled and said: "No fear!"
Whe he heard the news of Dale Oen's death, Van der Burgh tweeted: "To my greatest rival. My greatest friend. My brother in breaststroke. May you rest in peace. One love. He passed doing what he loved. For the sport he loved."
The two men shared a passion that all eight men will take with them to their blocks for the 100m breaststroke final in London believing they can emerge rewarded.
Expectation is high back home for Van der Burgh four years after South Africa returned home from Beijing empty handed. "It's a great honour for me to be seen as one of SA's biggest medal hopefuls. Yes, there's pressure, but it's encouraging to know that people are putting their faith in me," said the breaststroke ace.
The other medal hope from South Africa is world cup winner Chad Le Clos, who takes on five events, including both butterfly and both medley races. His aim is Rio 2016, any success at London 2012 the bonus in a long-term ambition.