As far as life beyond the pool goes for elite swimmers, Cameron van der Burgh stands out from the rest of the pack with the South African opting for one of the most unique post-retirement careers.
Having retired from competitive swimming last December, van der Burgh chose to dabble in the world of finance, shifting base to London where he now works as an analyst for a private hedge fund.
Arriving on Dubai shores this week as the ambassador for the upcoming DXB Swimfest, the Pretoria native has no regrets about giving up his sporting career, despite bowing out with two gold medals in the 2018 FINA World Swimming Championship.
“I do think about it (getting back to competitive swimming) sometimes,” the 2012 Olympics 100-meter breaststroke gold medalist told Sport360.
“That thought never really leaves you. Especially when you watch other swimmers doing well in the World Championships and other big events.
“However, I have been preparing for life after sport for a long time and I am very happy at where I am at this point in my life. You always have the fleeting thought about making a return some time,” added the 31-year-old.
Having broken several short and long course breaststroke records (both 50-meter and 100-meter) over the course of his distinguished career, van der Burgh is enjoying every minute of his life as a financial analyst.
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“Retirement has been really good to me so far. I am at a very good place in my life and I am enjoying the responsibilities of being a team-player at my firm.
“The thing is, I have been preparing for life after swimming for a long time. A lot of sportsmen make the mistake of not preparing for what comes after they retire. I didn’t and I love what I am doing in London.
“I think finance is very similar to swimming in many regards. Like sport, it involves winning and losing and there are constant ups and downs.
“Like in the pool, sometimes you come out on top. Other times, you have to pick yourself up from a tough defeat. It is extremely competitive and the margins between winning and losing are very fine.”
Van der Burgh shared a famous rivalry with British swimming icon Adam Peaty and, unsurprisingly, considers him his greatest adversary in the pool.
It was a rivalry which started in the 2014 Commonwealth Games where van der Burgh pipped Peaty to 50-meter breaststroke gold medal.
Following that win, it was Peaty who dominated the rivalry for the best part of four years as he established himself as a multiple Olympic and World champion.
However, it was the South African who had the last laugh when he beat the Peaty, 24, to 2018 Commonwealth Games 50-meter breaststroke gold once again.
Having now retired from the sport, van der Burgh admits that he loves to watch the England man in action.
“He is a swimmer I can say I love watching now that I have retired,” he said.
“It is great to see him doing well in the major events. We had a very close rivalry for four years where it was extremely tight. It was a really good feeling to finally beat him to the gold medal in the Commonwealth Games last year.”
Now married to long-time partner Nefeli Valakelis, van der Burgh is eager to take part in the DXB Swimfest which takes place at JA, The Resort on November 9.
“I am looking forward to come down to Dubai and my wife will be joining me for the first time. I have been there in the past for competitions but this time I can finally relax and enjoy myself,” he said.
“I cannot wait to join the other amateur swimmers from the UAE in the ocean for a swim. It will definitely be an exciting event and my wife and I hope to have loads of fun in a relaxed atmosphere.”
A chance to share the waters with an Olympic and multiple World Championships gold medalist is up for grabs for amateur swimming enthusiasts in Dubai, with registration for the DXB Swimfest set to close this Saturday.
Also part of the event as its UAE ambassador is Emirati swimming icon Saeed Al Jasmi. Saeed, along with his siblings Obaid, Bakheet and Faisal, became the first set of brothers to occupy an entire relay in the World Swimming Championships. The Al Jasmi brothers wrote themselves into the Guinness Book of World Record when they raced the 400m freestyle relay together in the 2010 World Short Course Championships in Dubai.
“The Daman DXB SwimFest is a fantastic open water event for kids, families & community, keen amateurs and elite athletes. I am delighted to be part of this event again as the UAE ambassador and I am looking forward to hosting the event at the new venue, JA The Resort,” Saeed Al Jasmi told Sport360.
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