5 August 2013
Olympic hero Chad le Clos continued his unbelievable victory march internationally as he raced to yet another gold medal in a tough battle on the penultimate day of the 15th Fina World Swimming Championships in Barcelona on Saturday.
With American great Ryan Lochte, the winner of 15 World Championship gold medals, having qualified fastest for the final of the 100 metres butterfly, it looked as if it would be a tight battle.
In the lead-up to the eagerly-awaited showdown, before he left his hotel, Le Clos kept repeating “this is a tough race” and “I have to beat them at the underwaters”.
Second 50 metres
The 21-year-old knew there were a number of swimmers in the field who could cause an upset, but in the back of his mind he knew that he would be the fastest on the second 50 metres.
In the final, it was Germany’s Steffen Diebler taking it out fastest to complete the first 50 metres in 23.60 seconds, with Le Clos lying in fifth place at 24.17 seconds.
The race was then on as Le Clos, the Olympic silver medallist over 100 metres in London in 2012, began his charge to clock a fast 26.89 seconds on the way back to win in an excellent 51.06.
South African record
That time bettered his previous best of 51.42 – swum in the Olympic final – and was also a new South African record.
“After winning the 200m, people were saying that the time was not fast. So I just wanted to prove to everyone that I could win the 100 and do a fast time,” Le Clos told Sapa after securing gold.
“It was great to win the 200m, but the 100m race is very special to me. Lochte came in and he really wanted to win. That gave the race an extra flavour and I think it was one of the biggest races of the night.”
Hungary’s Laszlo Cseh, who has trained with Le Cos on numerous occasions, was the second fastest on the second 50 metres, with a time of 27.24 seconds and took out the silver medal with Konrad Czerniak of Poland stealing the bronze from Diebler in 51.46. Lochte had to settle for sixth place.
Veteran Roland Schoeman, after equalling his African record of 21.67 seconds in the semi-finals, had to settle for seventh in the final with a time of 21.85 seconds. Brazil’s Cesar Cielo Filho defended his title with a time of 21.32 seconds. However, he declared himself satisfied, having improved on his showing in the 2012 Olympic Games.
Thanks to the efforts of Le Clos and breaststroke ace Cameron van der Burgh, South Africa finished ninth on the medal table. Between them the pair won three gold medals, while Van der Burgh, the winner of the 50 metres breaststroke, added a silver medal in the 100 metres breaststroke.
The big surprise was provided by Van der Burgh’s training partner and best friend Giulio Zorzi in the 50 metres breaststroke. The World University Games gold medallist, swimming in a major championship for the first time, was in lane one, but upset the apple cart as he finished behind only Van der Burgh and 100 metres champion Christian Sprenger of Australia.
(Country, gold, silver, bronze, total)