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Cameron’s Disney Heights

South African Olympic gold medallist Cameron van der Burgh will be flying the flag as Disney’s newest Aim High Ambassador, writes Veruschka Mungroo

Cameron Van Der Burgh of South Africa celebrates after winning the Swimming Men's 50m Breaststroke Final on day twelve of the 15th FINA World Championships at Palau Sant Jordi on July 31, 2013 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
When 100m breaststroke world-record holder and 2012 Olympic Champion Cameron van der Burgh switches on Disney Channel to watch his favourite cartoon, the popular Phineas and Ferb, he reminisces about his younger days. Therefore, he felt honoured when he was selected to be Disney’s next Aim High mentor.

Cameron will spearhead the fifth phase of the campaign by spending a day with a lucky South African youngster, acting as his mentor and sharing some of his swimming skills.  
“I so relate to Phineas and Ferb. In my younger days, like the duo, I, too, would concoct fun inventions as a pastime, when I was not practising swimming. They are also hilariously funny.

“I am a fan of Disney and I am really excited to be an ambassador for Disney’s popular mentorship programme and such an iconic brand. It’s a great campaign that offers a unique opportunity to young aspiring sports people,” said the 25-year-old.
Aim High is an international campaign that motivates young people by putting them in touch with their heroes – sport, music, media and entertainment – to inspire them to realise their own potential.

The programme launched in South Africa in July 2011, with Idols 6 winner Elvis Blue as the role model.  The second phase, launched towards the end of that year, saw popular rugby prop Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira in the role. Third mentor was world No 1 fast-bowler, Protea cricket star Dale Steyn.

Cameron said he was up for the responsibility and the challenge. “Knowing that 10 years from now I would have shaped some child’s future by inspiring them” has prompted him to psych himself to be “the best mentor I can be”.
“Growing up I had mentors who inspired me and offered me opportunities which changed my life. I really hope that I can do the same for someone else.
“If I had the same opportunity to meet someone famous to inspire me when I was younger it would probably have been Penny Heyns. Growing up, I didn’t know what the Olympics meant. Yet she won two gold medals and we witnessed that. I remember cutting out her pictures and I’d be like, this girl is my idol,” he said.
“My dream was always to be like her. And when my turn came – even before my Olympic participation – I got a chance to speak to her. She gave me some pointers on how to handle the pressure. So I sort of had my career day with her eventually.

“Hopefully I can inspire someone in the same way Heyns did me, to get to the dreams that they have set for themselves,” said Cameron.
“My mentorship will be simple, inspiring, with a little bit of fun. It will be a tailor-made experience, to the personality and goals of that winner. A lot of my mentorship will be impromptu. 
“I find that youth these days are too consumed by superficial things and really have no meaning to their lives. Therefore, I will take this opportunity to motivate them to allow themselves to be dedicated by – and successful in – setting big goals for themselves,” he said.

The swimmer adds that he’s thrilled to be part of an initiative which inspires children to try new things and think about the numerous opportunities available to them.
“You too can do it,” he promises youngsters.

  • To enter, fans simply need to visit www.disneyxd.co.za/aim-high or disneyafrica.mobi/Aim-High_competition.rbml until Monday, June 23 and answer a multiple choice question and provide a motivation on why they should be selected. 
  • The winner will get to spend an unforgettable day in and out of the pool, learning the tricks of the trade direct from Cameron van der Burgh, which will be filmed and aired on Disney XD (DStv, Channel 304) later on in the year. 
  • The winner will also receive a year’s supply of Nestle Milo Cereal

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