SA bellyflops, Van der Burgh makes a splash

Sascoc set South Africa a target of 12 medals, and Cameron van der Burgh opened the account with gold, sommer setting a new world record while he was at it. He did rather better than the rest of the South Africans, who staged a raa-ther embarrassing flop on the Olympics opening weekend.

On the football front, Banyana Banyana's grim campaign continued as they were thumped 3-0 by Canada. This put them completely out of the running and they will be heading back home after playing Japan later in the week. While nobody expected the South African women's soccer team to progress very far, they have struggled even beyond expectation, and will head back home with plenty to ponder.

Equally disappointing was the women's hockey team, who were thumped 7-1 by world number two Argentina in their pool B opening match. The South Africans conceded 11 penalty corners in the match as the Argentines, who finished third at the Beijing Olympics, swept them aside. South Africa will have a chance to improve on their dismal start when they play New Zealand on Tuesday.

In the cycling road race, Ashleigh Moolman had to settle for 16th place, despite being prominent in the lead peloton for most of the 140km race. However, Moolman couldn't respond to the break away by Marianne Vos of the Netherlands. The men's road race was equally disappointing, with Daryl Impey finishing 40th.

In the pool, South Africa had mixed fortunes, with Chad le Clos finishing fifth in the men's 400 metres individual medley final at the London Olympics on Saturday. Le Clos was the second fastest qualifier in the morning session, and while he started well in the butterfly leg of the race, he faded away towards the end and finished on 4:12:42. Charl Crous and Wendy Trott also struggled in the water, with the former finishing last in his heat and bottom half of the contest when he clocked 55.37 seconds, while Trott finished last in the 400m freestyle event, touching at 4:11:63. Suzaan van Biljon made it to the semi-finals of the 100m breaststroke, but finished seventh with a time of 1:07:68

Van der Burgh, however, claimed South Africa's first gold in the men's 100m breaststroke final, notching up a new world record of 58.46 seconds in the process. Van der Burgh was way ahead right from the word go, and stayed far ahead of the pack even after turning.

The South African 4 x 400m freestyle relay team was last to compete on Sunday, but struggled to keep up with the immense pace of the Americans and the French in the pool, finishing fifth. France took the gold, with America taking silver and Russia claiming the bronze.

This column appeared in The Daily Maverick.