Van der Burgh was never headed, winning in 58.46sec to better the previous world record of 58.58sec held by Australian Brenton Rickard.

He became the first South African man to claim individual Olympic swimming gold, although South Africa won the men's 4x100m freestyle relay in 2004. Records tumbled in the Olympic pool, starting with American Dana Vollmer’s 100m butterfly triumph in 55.98sec. Vollmer became the first woman to dip under 56 seconds in the event, bettering the previous world mark of 56.06 set by Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom in 2009.