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Van der Burgh eyes Olympic double

Cameron Van der Burgh has set his sights on an Olympic double in 2016.

Cameron van der Burgh gestures as he celebrates after winning the final of the men's 50-metre breaststroke swimming event in the FINA World Championships at Palau Sant Jordi in Barcelona on July 31, 2013. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG - The 100m breaststroke Olympic champion and world record holder Cameron van der Burgh told Sports Talk on Wednesday that he will now look to compete in the 200m event in 2014, with his eye on a possible Olympic double in 2016.

Van der Burgh will be looking to add the 200m event to his arsenal this year, with a long-term view to winning two medals at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The 25-year-old is currently in heavy training preparing for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow this July, as well as the World Short Course Championships in Doha, Qatar, in December.

He has opted not to travel to Australia for the Super Series later this month and has instead chosen to focus on his training.

“Something that I’m also looking at in 2014 is the 200m. I’m not making too many promises, but I’d like to give the 200m a go. Hopefully by the time 2016 comes, maybe I’ll be able to have myself a double chance of getting medals then.”

The last man to win the prestigious Olympic double was Japan’s Kosuke Kitajima, in 2004 and 2008, while Italy’s Domenico Fioravanti achieved the feat in Sydney in 2000.

Van der Burgh’s coach Dirk Lange is based abroad, but is in South Africa at the moment as they prepare  for the year ahead.
 
“We’re averaging 15-16 km a day at the moment so it’s quite tough and grueling. You only really have to do this bulk base training at the beginning of the year and that is why it’s important that we get it done now because this season is so long.”

The Commonwealth Games are largely viewed as an ‘easier’ competition due to the fact that swimming powers such as the US, China, Hungary, Germany, Brazil, France and the like aren’t members, but as van der Burgh points out, that doesn’t necessarily apply to men’s breaststroke.

"It’s a little bit difficult for me, but I think that I always like it a bit difficult. We’ve got the Olympic silver medalist in the 100m Christian Sprenger, and the Olympic silver medalist in the 200m Michael Jamieson as well, who is very good in the 100m."

After van der Burgh’s exploits in London, 2013 was a year in which he took some time off and concentrated on his studies.

He nevertheless won two medals at the World Championships in Barcelona despite being ill, reaffirming his status as probably the best sprint breaststroke swimmer of all time.

“This season is really crucial for us. In the 2012 Olympic year we set the target that we wanted to go the whole year unbeaten in the 100m. That was something that we were able to achieve and brought me a lot of confidence heading into the Olympic Games.

“This year the goal is pretty much the same, to go through the season unbeaten and then also break my personal best. So, if I can do my personal bests, records are part of that, they are just the cherry on top. I just think at the moment we’re trying just to look for improvement.”

Van der Burgh says he’s someone who loves racing and is relishing swimming in one of the best eras ever for his discipline.

“I think breaststroke swimming is the strongest stroke by far out of all at the moment. The depth is just insane if we look at the times that we were swimming at the Olympic Games versus the World Championships. The breaststrokers were the only ones that were right up there on the Olympic Games times, a lot of the other strokes fell off quite short and there were a lot of jumps from first, to second, to third."

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