What a swim! Chad wins SA a second gold medal at Olympics
Chad Le Clos went toe-to-toe with Michael Phelps and out-slugged him to win South Africa's second gold medal of the London Olympics last night.
The Durban star overhauled the American on the final lap to claim an unlikely victory in the men's 200m butterfly.
It was an event that everybody thought Le Clos might be able to get a silver or bronze - on a good night.
But the South African tore up the form book, ripped through the pool and shredded the dreams of Phelps, who was competing in his fourth consecutive Games 200m butterfly final.
Le Clos turned third and then hit the after-burners as he overhauled Takeshi Matsua of Japan and then Phelps in a brilliantly timed piece of swimming.
Le Clos touched the wall right at the end of his stroke, while Phelps had to stretch slightly.
In the end Le Clos beat Phelps by five-hundredths of a second, clocking 1min 52.96sec. Phelps finished in 1:53.01 and Matsuda in 1:53.21.
Le Clos's win in the final seconds was ironic, given Phelps's famous ability to execute masterful finishes.
“I felt like him, swimming that last 50 I felt like I was Phelps,” said Le Clos. “I always wanted to swim in an Olympic Games and I wanted to be like him. I always remembered Phelps coming off the last wall strongly, using that momentum, so that’s what I tried to do.”
Phelps - who sealed his legacy on Tuesday with a record 19th Olympic medal, the most for any competitor at the Olympic Games - praised Le Clos, describing him as "a very, very good competitor, a very hard working kid, a very hungry kid”.
Le Clos' surprise win came hot on the heels of a gold for his compatriot Cameron Van der Burgh, who broke the breaststroke world record on Sunday.
Although the South African relay team finished outside the medals in both the 4x100 and 4x200 freestyle, the two individual golds will give the African nation hope that its swimming programme is undergoing a renaissance.
The South Africans took three medals in Athens but was disappointed to go home empty-handed from Beijing and the 20-year-old Le Clos said the future looked positive, with a group of young athletes waiting in the wings.
“I really believe that the future’s bright for us,” he said.
“I think the main thing is that we had the country behind us this time, and we had a lot of support back home.”
- Le Clos's performance last night came on the day when Banyana Banyana scored a famous draw against world champions Japan, although the gloss was dimmed by a Japanese defender's claim that they were playing to finish second in the group.
- Equestrian Alex Peternell finished 49th of the 53 competitors who completed all three rounds of individual eventing at the London Olympics on Tuesday.
- The SA men's lightweight fours team rowed themselves into tomorrow's Olympic final. They produced a spectacular fightback in the second-half of their semi-final to finish second.