Can Cameron and Chad kick­s­tart the gold rush in Rio?

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - LIFE - OCKERT DE VIL­LIERS

STEP­PING onto the pool deck in Rio, Chad le Clos and Cameron van der Burgh could make or break South Africa’s hunt for Olympic sil­ver­ware.

Van der Burgh won the 100m breast­stroke gold medal in a world record time two days into Lon­don 2012. His time sparked a medal frenzy, with the team claim­ing four in the first week of the Games.

Le Clos’ gi­ant-slay­ing swim two days later ar­guably over­shad­owed Van der Burgh’s im­pres­sive feat, after he fa­mously out-touched iconic Amer­i­can Michael Phelps by 0.05 sec­onds in the 200m but­ter­fly fi­nal.

Phelps would get one over the young pre­tender, win­ning the 100m but­ter­fly with the South African earn­ing sil­ver.

Van der Burgh and Le Clos will spear­head a 14-strong con­tin­gent in Brazil.

Le Clos opens his ac­count in the 200m freestyle be­fore he looks to de­fend his ti­tle in the 200m fly. The event is shap­ing up to be one of the high­lights with the Phelps-Le Clos re­match dom­i­nat­ing the nar­ra­tive.

The duo have not faced off since Lon­don with the Amer­i­can mak­ing a stun­ning re­turn from re­tire­ment.

It would be naïve to think it will be a two-horse race be­tween the heavy­weights, with world cham­pion Las­zlo Cseh of Hun­gary also ex­pected to chal­lenge for the ti­tle.

Cseh tops the world rank­ings with a sea­son’s best of 1:52.91. Le Clos and Phelps rank fourth and sixth with times of 1:54.42 and 1:54.84 re­spec­tively.

Le Clos heads to Rio as the undis­puted 100m but­ter­fly cham­pion – he has not lost a ma­jor cham­pi­onship since Lon­don 2012.

Cseh again tops the rank­ings with his time of 50.86 and is fol­lowed by Phelps in sec­ond with 51 flat. Le Clos swam the third-fastest time this year with his 51.09.

Phelps could be go­ing for his fourth con­sec­u­tive ti­tle in the 100m but­ter­fly, while Le Clos would also like to ex­tend his un­beaten run in the two- lap con­test.

Mean­while, South African freestyle spe­cial­ist Myles Brown will be look­ing to set the pace when he aims to qual­ify for the 400m fi­nal at his maiden ap­pear­ance at the Games on the open­ing day.

Van der Burgh will launch his ti­tle de­fence on the first day in the 100m breast­stroke.

His tus­sle with Bri­tish world record holder Adam Peaty has the mak­ings of one of the great Olympic ri­val­ries.

Peaty was the first 100m breast­stro­ker to break the 58-sec­ond bar­rier, knock­ing al­most half-a-sec­ond off Van der Burgh’s record in a time of 57.92 in 2015.

The Bri­ton will be go­ing to Rio as the world cham­pion and will take aim at the South African’s Olympic ti­tle.

Van der Burgh has rekin­dled his love for the sport after dom­i­nat­ing the Fina World Cup with an un­beaten run and beat­ing Peaty at the fi­nal event of the se­ries in Dubai.

Peaty boasts the world-lead­ing time of 58.36, with ris­ing Amer­i­can Kevin Cordes’ 58.94 rank­ing him sec­ond go­ing into the Games.

Van der Burgh’s prepa­ra­tions hit a snag due to ill­ness with the star miss­ing two meets in Europe last month.

US-based swim­mer Christo­pher Reid emerged as a dark horse at the South African swim­ming cham­pi­onships in Dur­ban ear­lier this year when he smashed Ger­hard Zand­berg’s na­tional 100m back­stroke record in 53.12.

Reid’s time is the 11th-fastest in the world this year and he will have to dip well below 53 sec­onds for a place in the Olympic fi­nal and a pos­si­ble shot at a medal.

Le Clos, Van der Burgh, and Reid could also be a part of a po­tent 4x100m med­ley re­lay team, but they would need a strong freestyle swim­mer for a chance of a podium fin­ish.

Other than Le Clos, no other freestyler has been able to come close to a sub-49 sec­onds over two laps, which would be a min­i­mum re­quire­ment for the quar­tet to earn a place in the fi­nal.

CAMERON VAN DER BURGH: Re­news Peaty ri­valry

CHAD LE CLOS: Ready for Phelps re­match

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