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Four medals in pool as swimmers come to the party for Team SA
- Updated: July 25, 2014
By Gary Lemke
Roland Schoeman picked up the 11th and 12th Commonwealth Games medals of his glittering career as he won two silvers in Glasgow on Friday night, one in the men’s 50m butterfly and one in the 4x100m freestyle.
Chad le Clos also earned two medals, a bronze in the 50m butterfly and a relay silver after leading off the quartet, which was eventually outswum only by Australia down the home stretch.
Sebastien Rousseau chipped in to the growing medals tally with a fighting bronze in the 400m individual medley, after he had built up a considerable lead, before being hunted down on the final lap by Scotland’s Daniel Wallace, who surged home in 4:11.20, ahead of Australia’s Thomas Fraser-Holmes.
The night had been rounded off by the men’s 4x100m freestyle team of Le Clos, Schoeman, Leigh Shankland and Craydon Muller, who swam out of their skins to put daylight between themselves and England, in third spot, after a rousing first two legs by Le Clos and Schoeman.
There is the promise of more to come on Saturday from Cameron van der Burgh, the Olympic 100m breaststroke champion. He qualified comfortably and then proclaimed himself ‘happy’ and ‘not showing all his cards right now’ leading into the final.
Before the evening’s swimming programme, Team South Africa had nudged up to three bronze medals – two from judo – before Schoeman, Rousseau, Le Clos and the relay team pushed that tally to seven on a day the team claimed five medals.
‘Eleven Commonwealth Games medals is something special,’ said Schoeman after swimming his fastest time in these championships in eight years, his 20.13sec being 0.01 quicker than the record time he set in Melbourne in 2006. He can now call that a round dozen.
‘If you told me a week ago that I’d swim a 23.2 here a week ago I wouldn’t have believed you,’ said Le Clos after he took bronze in 23.36, having timed 23.29 in the semi-finals.
Both South Africans were clearly elated. ‘Ben Proud was just too fast on the night, and congratulations to him,’ said Schoeman after the Englishman stopped the clock in a Games record 22.93.
Both returned to the pool less than two hours later to help South Africa’s 4x100m freestyle team in their medal cause.
Le Clos still has his sights on a record seven medals in Glasgow. He already has two. ‘This is a good start, although after the [butterfly] semi-finals I thought about it [gold] and it would also have given me the chance to get the triple [50, 100 and 200m] which hasn’t been done before.’
On the night Proud was simply too quick. He led off in lane four, the meat in a South Africans sandwich and the order remained unchanged from the start. Proud got in front, being chased hard by Schoeman with Le Clos never looking like he would be able to get to the front two.
Both Schoeman and Le Clos are at different stages of their careers, but the ambitions that burn inside both burn equally as bright. ‘I have a great day job, swimming, meeting great people, travelling the world. I’m healthy, in great shape at the age of 34 and enjoying my swimming. I’m taking things one day at a time but if I swim in Rio I will be the first to compete in five Olympics,’ Schoeman said.
Le Clos has come to Glasgow in terrific shape and looked a nailed on certainty to win the 100 and 200m butterfly, while he also has eyes on the 200m individual medley and three relays – the first of which was Friday night’s 4x100m freestyle.
Van der Burgh too has looked relaxed. He dipped under the minute barrier in his semi-final, being touched off late by Scotland’s Ross Murdoch (59.72) and then declared himself to be in shape to go under 59 seconds in the final. ‘There might be a few high 58s, but I love the rush of finals,’ he added.
Rousseau controlled the 400m IM from the start and held a commanding advantage after strong butterfly, backstroke and breaststroke legs, but he was raced out of it in the last lap by Wallace.
‘I swam the race to win, but got caught in the last 50. The way I went out there is the way I swim. I look to take control of my races. The opposition was quality and I will learn from the experience. Daniel [Wallace] is my training partner in Florida and I’ll be able to train with the Commonwealth Games champion for the next two years leading into Rio. Being on the podium here is a big boost for Rio,’ Rousseau said.