CAMERON van der Burgh's life changed for all time in the 58,46 seconds it took for him to rewrite sporting history with the fastest 100m breaststroke ever swum.

And that is all it came down to, less than a minute after 14 years of hard work.

"The pain I felt was excruciating. After I touched the wall, I was in so much pain. For about 10 seconds I couldn't do anything, and then looked at the scoreboard. 'Is it my name with the 1 next to it,' I asked myself," he reflected yesterday after the momentous night before in the aquatic centre at London 2012.

It is a compliment not only to the man of the moment himself, but also to those who have been with him on his journey, and it is also an incredible compliment to his mother and father who have raised a superstar who has his feet on the ground and exudes humility in victory.

"I will remember the love, the friendships and the support for the rest of my life. The role that each one has played to connect the dots towards this," Van der Burgh said, pointing to the shiny gold medal.

SA last saw one of those eight years ago and for a country that is ranked third in Africa since 1992, with 20 medals (behind Kenya and Ethiopia), it has been an interminable wait. Ironically, it was eight years ago that Van der Burgh sat in his lounge and celebrated Ryk Neethling's role in helping the "Awesome Foursome" race to 4x100m freestyle gold.

"It's special for me to know that I watched Ryk (now his manager) win gold and he was here watching me win it. This medal has changed my life, quite literally. When I woke up this morning it was like having a little kid next to me. I have this and I must take care of it and respect it for the rest of my life. For us athletes, winning an Olympic gold is like being given a knighthood. It's like being called Sir."

While it came down to less than a minute, it has been a long journey to the top, full of sacrifices. Yet, it has been a meticulous one, in the words of Van der Burgh, "ticking off all the boxes. I've broken world records, won world championships and Commonwealth Games ... the one that was missing was the Olympic Games, and now, here it is. I'm humbled by this. I hope it helps me inspire young kids in SA to take up swimming and become champions. If I can even get 10 or 20 guys to go out there and start swimming I'll feel as though I've achieved something lasting."

What Van der Burgh has done is set the ball rolling for the rest of the squad - not only the swimmers, of whom much is expected, particularly Chad le Clos, if not tonight in the men's 200m butterfly final, then in the 2014 Commonwealth Games and 2016 Rio Olympics.

Taking gold in the manner in which Van der Burgh did has to have a positive effect on the squad. If Caster Semenya, for instance, does not produce something special then questions have to be asked about her inconsistent form.

Others in the squad can compete without the pressure of "where's SA's first medal coming from?" It was always on the cards that Van der Burgh would win a medal, but so much can go wrong at this level. Ask Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt.

Meanwhile, a clinical hat trick by midfielder Jamie Dwyer helped Australia to a 6-0 victory over SA's men's hockey team in their pool A opener yesterday. Ranked world No1 and Beijing Games bronze medallists, Australia showed their class as world No12 SA struggled to gain momentum in Australia's half.

With Sapa