SWIMMER Cameron van der Burgh set a new world record as he won South Africa’s first medal at the London Olympics in the men’s 100m breaststroke final last night.

Van der Burgh finished in a time of 58,46 seconds — 0,12 faster than the previous record held by Australian Brenton Rickard.

Another Australian, Christian Sprenger (58,93), finished second, and Brendan Hansen of the US (59,49) clinched the bronze medal.

Van der Burgh had qualified for the final in emphatic style on Saturday when he won his semifinal by breaking the previous South African, African and Olympic records with a time of 58,95.

“Tonight, as I came in, I said to myself, ‘a man can change his stars, you can write your own destiny tonight’. I had my chance and I took it,” he said, after a victory that saw him lie back in the pool in sheer exhilaration at the finish.

Van der Burgh later said he was looking up at the sky — remembering Norwegian rival and world champion Alexander Dale Oen, who died earlier this year of a heart attack.

“I know that he was probably laughing down at me, thinking, ‘How can you go that time?”

Van der Burgh said: “I really don’t care about the world record. Once you become an Olympic champion you join the club, and they can’t take it away from you. One day I can tell my kids, when they are watching the Olympic Games, that I won that.