Cameron van der Burgh won the South African 100m breaststroke crown for the 11th time in a row in Durban on Tuesday night, posting a time that pushed him to second on the world rankings.
The veteran was “super happy” when he saw his time of 59.73sec on the King’s Park pool electronic board, clenching his hand in a fist.
Van der Burgh went out unusually slowly, but he came back like a torpedo in the second half.
“I’m stoked,” said the 28-year-old, the 2012 Olympic champion and runner-up last year.
“With the amount of work [I’ve done], it’s encouraging. I’ve been wanting to try this new style for a while and it feels like it’s paying off and each race is getting better and better.”
The first half of the race was about finding his rhythm.
“The main thing is to hit the sweet spot of the stroke. The first 50m is going to be hard because we haven’t done that speed racing and it’s almost like you start forcing it so it makes you too tired.
“You’ve always got to swim at a speed where it makes you energy efficient, you’re not fighting with the water, and if you’re not racing enough you don’t know how to play that speed yet.
“Tonight was more about understanding, ‘okay, just slow down a little bit, get into the rhythm, get into the groove, get into the stroke and then nail it onto the second 50m’.”
Van der Burgh is aiming to medal at his sixth consecutive world championships when he competes in Budapest in July.
Myles Brown became the third swimmer to crack a world championship A-qualifying time here, going 1min 47.51sec in the 200m freestyle semifinals to earn pole position for tonight’s final ahead of Chad Le Clos, who clocked 1:49.47.
Le Clos, who achieved his qualifying mark in the 100m freestyle on Monday night, will be the favourite on the back of the 1:45.20 national record he clocked winning Olympic silver last year.
But he lost the 200m freestyle to Brown at the 2015 SA championships.
Tatjana Schoenmaker will attempt to become the first local woman to qualify for a top international gala in three years when she competes in the 100m breaststroke final tonight.
Schoenmaker cracked a 1:07.99 personal best for the fastest time of the semifinals last night, still a little way off the 1:07.58 A-qualifying mark.
No South African women qualified for last year’s Olympics nor the 2015 world championships, although several made it to the 2014 Commonwealth Games, where different selection criteria are applied.
Schoenmaker could change that. “I broke 1:08 for the first time so that’s really good,” said the financial sciences student at the University of Pretoria.
“Now that I know I can dip under [1:08], hopefully I can go again for it. I was a bit tense over the last 15m but we’ll try and work on that.”
She has a busy schedule tonight, also set to race the 50m breaststroke and 200m freestyle, with the breaststroke final sandwiched between the two.
Schoenmaker, a better 200m breaststroke swimmer, has yet to decide whether to go the world championships if she qualifies — she’s also eyeing the World Student Games in Taiwan.
“It’s a still a decision because there’s World Students as well and they’re three weeks apart, so I might go, I might not.