Swimming: Van der Burgh shakes off shoulder woes for worlds

Swimming: Van der Burgh shakes off shoulder woes for worlds
PHOTO: AFP

KAZAN, Russia - South Africa's Olympic 100m breaststroke champion Cameron van der Burgh is ready to prove his shoulder injury woes are behind him as he battles for world championships gold in Kazan.

The 27-year-old is back to his best and ready to race following a break to allow a troublesome shoulder injury to recover from wear-and-tear at the end of last season.

He will be racing in the 50m, 100m and 200m breaststroke, as well as the medley relay for South Africa in Russia.

His decision to race the 200m, an Olympic event a year from the Rio de Janeiro games, proves he has fallen back in love with the sport after a difficult period - both in and out of the pool.

"The main thing this year is to get back on track again," he told AFP.

"After my shoulder injury, there was a period where I wasn't enjoying the sport as much, I had a bit of a post-Olympic depression if we can call it that.

"I finished the end of last year injured and since then I have been able to get that right by taking some time off.

"I am happy with the progress and I have been able to train properly this year. I'm feeling good and excited to race.

"I am glad I am back in action and I have a love for the sport and to race again with the shoulder feeling good.

"I just want to lay it all on the line and give my best performance." Australia's Christian Sprenger and Great Britain Adam's Peaty - who has broken the South African's 50m and 100m world records and beat him into silver in the 2014 Commonwealth Games over 100m - are amongst his rivals.

Having medalled at all of the last five world championships, Van der Burgh is experienced enough to focus only on his own performance when he starts his Kazan campaign in Sunday's 100m breaststoke heats.

Peaty has posted the world's fastest time this year over both the 50m and 100m while Sprenger is the reignig world 100m breaststroke champion, but Van der Bergh knows better than to worry about his rivals.

 "I have had a lot of rivals over the years, they seem to change every year," he said.

"When I started swimming it was the likes of Brendan Hansen, Alexander Dale Oen, then it was Sprenger now it's Peaty, so I never pay too much attention to that.

"If I am just focused on trying to be beat Peaty then maybe another name like (Great Britain's) Ross Murdoch or someone can come up and surprise you, like Peaty did last year.

"For me, I just try to swim each year as well as I possibly can.

"It has served me well in previous years when I have been lucky enough to have been on the podium and I just keep trying to be consistent." After the 100m breaststroke final on Monday and the 50m final scheduled for Wednesday, Van der Burgh will experiment with racing over the longer distance in the 200m heats next Thursday.

"The 200m is just a bit of fun, I'm just excited to try that one, there is no pressure and I have nothing to lose," he explained.

"I hope I can do a good time, I'm excited because it's after my main races, the 50m and the 100m, so it won't affect anything and it should be good." Having won Olympic gold in a then-world record at the 2012 games, Van der Burgh says the experience of winning the 100m final in London taught him many lessons.

"Being the Olympic champion will forever be a confidence booster because the Olympics is the ultimate," he said.

"I feel like the Olympic Games prepared me for anything that can be thrown my way and the amount of pressure we had to deal with at that competition was immense.

"Nothing can compare to that, it can give you a lot of confidence moving forward to know you can achieve such a huge milestone.

"At the same time, you understand the amount of work that goes into reaching that level and you know how hard you need to work to achieve those results."

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