Cameron van der Burgh earned South Africa’s first medal at the Rio Olympic Games, securing silver in the men’s 100m breaststroke final in the early hours of Monday morning (SA time).
Van der Burgh, the defending champion, touched the wall in second place in 58.69, completing the two-length race 0.26 outside his national record which he had set to win gold at the London showpiece four years ago.
“To get on the podium again, it’s made the whole four-year cycle worth it, and all the sacrifice worthwhile,” he said.
British favourite Adam Peaty broke his own world record to win the Olympic title in 57.13, and Van der Burgh admitted he had known his only real chance for gold rested in a potential error from the reigning world champion.
“I knew in the warm-up I didn’t have a 57 (seconds performance) in me,” he said.
“My body feels really good but my stroke is a little bit off, and I’m not connecting properly with my kicks and my pull, so I obviously had to play what I was given today.
“I sort of came in thinking if Adam makes some mistakes we can perhaps take the gold, but the real fight for me was to try to secure the silver, which we did, so I’m super stoked.
“Obviously I have my objectives that I set out, and silver is a nice colour.”
Van der Burgh was set to compete again in the 200m breaststroke heats on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Chad le Clos was seventh fastest among the qualifiers for the men’s 200m freestyle final, to be held in the early hours of Tuesday morning (SA time), stopping the clock at 1:45.94.
His training partner, Myles Brown, ended 12th in the semifinals in 1:46.57 and was eliminated.
Chris Reid was 10th quickest in the men’s 100m backstroke semifinals in 53.70, and he too was knocked out ahead of the medal race.