Cameron van der Burgh paid tribute to his late training partner Alexander Dale Oen after his world record-breaking Olympic gold medal win in the 100m breaststroke here Sunday.
Van der Burgh burnt off a crack field to shatter the world record in 58.46sec and become the first male swimmer from South Africa to win Olympic gold, ahead of Australian Christian Sprenger and American Brendan Hansen.
Van der Burgh immediately paid tribute to Norwegian world champion Dale Oen, whose sudden death from heart failure last April at a training camp in Flagstaff, Arizona stunned swimming.
"I just have to pay tribute to Alexander Dale Oen tonight, I know he has been with me this year, I think he helped me finish the race in such a strong manner," van der Burgh said.
"Alexander pushed me in training, it made me realise I had to go faster to win the gold medal, that is what we trained for and that is what we have achieved."
Van der Burgh said Dale Oen's girlfiend and family were in London for the Olympics and he planned to talk with them.
"His parents have been sitting with mine and talking a lot," he said.
"There is not much you can say to them, but I'd just like to celebrate the guy's life by winning a gold medal. That is all I can do for them."
Van der Burgh bettered the previous record of 58.58 set by Australian Brenton Rickard on July 27, 2009 at the world championships in Rome.
The South African couldn't wipe the smile off his face as he sprawled out on the lane rope taking in what was the swim of his career.
"It's a feeling I can't describe right now, it has been a lot of work in the making. Everything has paid off tonight," he said.
"If there is such a thing as the perfect race, I think I swam it at the right time tonight.
"I don't really care about the world record, once you have become an Olympic champion that can never be taken away from you.
"I can tell my kids when they are watching one day that I did that."
Japan's Kosuke Kitajima finished fifth, failing in his bid to become the first male swimmer to win the same event at three successive Games.
"I wanted to defend the title, but it was really tough and I enjoyed trying to do it," Kitajima said.
"It was a really tough race and I needed the world record to win, I didn't have the ability to be honest. I will do my best in the 200m."
Veteran American Hansen, 30, a world champion in the event five years ago, was thrilled to snare the bronze medal.
"That was as fast as I can go, I was pleased with the outcome. I couldn't go any faster," the Texan said.