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Chad makes Games waves

New Delhi: Chad le Clos conquered the Commonwealth on Monday and it remains only a matter of time before this gifted 18-year-old South African rules the world.

Le Clos opened the country’s medal count on day one of the Commonwealth Games by winning the men’s 200m butterfly in style, and the men’s 4x100m freestyle relay team collected bronze behind Australia and England to ensure South Africa claimed two medals.

On Monday South Africa had every reason to toast Le Clos, who had booked lane two in the final with a 1min 57.92sec morning swim, but he brought the crowd in the aquatic centre to its feet with a blistering last lap, set up by a quality turn, and finished strongest of all.

His time of 1:56.48 was a new Games record and in two years time, he will relish the opportunity of lining up against American legend Michael Phelps in the London Olympics.

ÔÇ£I came here wanting a medal, but I had to change my race plan as I didn’t start too well. I had to pick up the tempo and come home hard. It’s just a great feeling ÔÇô even better than winning gold at the Youth Olympics in Singapore.ÔÇØ

Le Clos had filled in for Roland Schoeman in the morning to help the men’s 4x100m team qualify for the final, so in reality he will also earn a bronze medal for being part of that squad.

Sebastien Rousseau, who recently turned 20, had the treasured lane four in the 200m butterfly final after a 1:57.45 in qualifying, but he couldn’t build on that effort and finished eighth in 1:58.28, but the experience of being in lane four in a major final will be something for him to build on when it comes to London 2012 and beyond.

In the men’s 400m freestyle, the Canadian favourite Ryan Cochrane had to pull out all the stops to win in 3:48.48, and Mark Randall fared best of the South African duo when he finished fifth 3:50.87. Randall started conservatively and made his move between the 250 and 300m marks, before tiring slightly in the last 100m.┬á

Riaan Schoeman, who benefited from Jean Basson’s decision to withdraw from the final and concentrate on Tuesday’s 200m freestyle, and was promoted to a place in the elite eight, showed up well early, being third after the first 100, but he tired as the big guns took over and he touched seventh, in 3:53.85.

In the men’s 4x100m final, South Africa, led off by Graeme Moore with a 49.19, battled gamely but it was always Australia and England who looked strong. Gideon Louw did his bit and Schoeman then had a decent first swim of these Games, before Darian Townsend brought he team home in 3:15.21. Australia, who won in 3:13.92, broke South Africa’s Commonwealth record of four years ago.

The women’s hockey team completely overwhelmed Pool B opponents Trinidad and Tobago in winning their opening match 12-0, turning on the power after half-time when they enjoyed a 3-0 lead. There were some spectacular goals ÔÇô mixed admittedly with some abject defending and moderate goalkeeping ÔÇô but the likes of Dirkie Chamberlaine, Pietie Coetzee (until she was substituted) and Farah Fredericks enjoyed themselves as the scoreboard rattled along.

They will get far tougher assignments but you can only beat what is put in front of you and South Africa, in paying tribute to their striker Roxanne Turner who was ruled out of the tournament with a back injury sustained in the final practice match, did so in style.

Commonweath medallist in the weightlifting from 2006, Portia Vries, had high hopes going into the 48kg division and she managed to lift a combined 156kg, but that was only good enough for sixth place.


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