Olympic breaststroke gold medallist Cameron van der Burgh says he needs to remain among the top swimmers in his specialist event this year if he is to successfully defend his title at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
Van der Burgh made a good start to the season with the fourth fastest time in the world this year of 59.78 seconds at the South African National Aquatic Championships in Durban in April.
“The main goal in the year before the Olympic Games is to try and be in contention for the gold next year,” Van der Burgh said at the side of the pool at his base at the University of Pretoria on Wednesday.
“If you are not in the medals this year, you are sort of falling behind and in 2011 the main goal for me was to work my way up to the 100m breaststroke and get up there.”
Since winning the Olympic gold medal in the men’s 100m breaststroke in a world-record time of 58.46 seconds at the London Games there has been an outright assault from young pretenders to usurp him from his throne.
In 2014, British teenager Adam Peaty burst onto the swimming season when he broke Van der Burgh’s 50m breaststroke record in a time of 26.62 seconds at the European Championships in Berlin last August.
Peaty then became the first man to break through the 58-second barrier to slash 0.54 seconds off Van der Burgh’s 100m breaststroke record.
Surrendering his two long-course world records may have been a bitter pill to swallow but Van der Burgh said winning titles and medals remained his focus.
“The main thing is that you keep the medals while records have always meant to be broken but the medals will stand forever and nobody will take that away from me which is the most important thing,” the Tuks HPC swimmer said.
“It is obviously nice to have the world record, I’m not going to say it is not nice but that is not the main goal, it is about winning.”
Van der Burgh will join some of South Africa’s top swimmers including Olympic gold medallist Chad le Clos for the Canet-en-Roussillon leg of the Mare Nostrum Series on June 6 and 7.
He said he would be looking to race in as many galas on the European circuit in the build-up to the FINA World Championships in Kazan, Russia in August.
“European racing is at such great level where the crowd and the atmosphere is so amazing to be there and it pushes,” Van der Burgh said.
“Now I am just going to try and take the momentum forward and get over there to race some of my competitors to feel them out and see where you are in your training. I’m feeling confident and I am happy with my training at the moment.”