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Swimmer Cameron van der Burgh led South Africa’s charge, securing the country’s first Olympic gold medal in eight years, as the SA team ended day two of the London Games in tied 13th position in the table on Sunday night.
Van der Burgh won the men’s 100m breaststroke final in a world record time of 58.46 seconds to become South Africa’s first men’s individual Olympic swimming champion.
Australian Christian Sprenger (58.93) finished second and Brendan Hansen of the United States (59.49) clinched the bronze medal.
“It is just a feeling that I can’t describe right now,” Van der Burgh said after the race.
“The last four years have been a lot of hard work.”
Elsewhere in the pool, the SA men’s 4x100m freestyle relay team finished fifth in the final.
The quartet, consisting of Roland Schoeman, Darian Townsend, Gideon Louw and Graeme Moore, set a time of 3:13:45.
The South Africans had qualified seventh fastest in the heats earlier on Sunday, with a time of 3:13:38.
Both Townsend and Schoeman were in the SA team that won gold in the same event at the 2004 Athens Olympics.
Suzaan van Biljon was eliminated from the women’s 100m breaststroke event after finishing seventh in her semi-final.
Van Biljon, 12th fastest in the morning heats, touched the wall in one minute, 07.68 seconds (1:07.68).
Earlier in the pool, Charl Crous and Wendy Trott failed to progress beyond the heats in their respective events.
Crous clocked 55.37 seconds, finishing last in his 100m backstroke heat.
While his Olympic campaign as an individual came to an end, Crous still has an opportunity to compete as part of the men’s 4x100m medley relay team.
Trott’s hopes in the 400m freestyle event were dashed when she touched last in 4:11.63.
She had said earlier, however, that she was treating the event as a warm-up for her specialist discipline, the 800m freestyle, on Thursday.
Elsewhere, boxer Siphiwe Lusizi progressed to the last 16 of the men’s 69kg division with a 17-13 victory over three rounds against Ahmed Abdulkareem Ahmed of Iraq.
Meanwhile, Ashleigh Moolman was buried in a large chase group and settled for 16th place in the women’s cycling road race.
“I did my best to cover everything, but a miscalculation on the road left me in the bunch,” said Moolman, who was prominent in the lead peloton for most of the race.
Joanna van de Winkel finished at the back of the same group, taking 28th position.
The other South African in the race, Robyn de Groot, finished over the time limit.
The SA women’s hockey team were beaten 7-1 by world number two Argentina in their pool B opener.
Dirkie Chamberlain scored their only goal 12 minutes before half-time, after receiving a pinpoint cross from Jennifer Wilson.
In badminton, the women’s doubles pair of Michelle Edwards and Annari Viljoen went down in their second group match in a row, losing in straight sets to Australia’s Leanne Choo and Renuga Veeran.
The SA men’s doubles team of Dorian James and Willem Viljoen also lost their second successive match in straight sets to the Chinese duo of Biao Chai and Guo Zhendong.