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Schoeman and Le Clos put down their markers

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By Gary Lemke

Roland Schoeman showed all his experience and major championship mindset as he took 0.60 seconds off his morning heat’s time to qualify second fastest in 23.25sec for Friday’s 50m butterfly final at the Commonwealth Games.

Minutes later, Chad le Clos carved a huge chunk off his personal best to qualify third fastest for the final, just 0.04 off Schoeman. The pace was set by England’s Ben Proud, with a quick 23.14.

‘The final is going to be fast,’ said Schoeman. ‘I’m going to be doing my own thing, I’m not worried about any of the others. I can only swim my race and if someone is faster and beats me then so be it.’

Le Clos, who is aware that no swimmer in history has done the 50m, 100m and 200m butterfly triple, was walking on air. ‘I took nearly a second off my PB,’ he said. In reality it was 0.36 seconds, but that’s a big margin at this rarified level of competition.

Schoeman won both his races, a 23.85 in the heats followed by that evening victory. ‘That’s what I do,’ he said. ‘I came here focused and ready. I know what I have to do to win the gold, I know what time to hit.’ And what time might be that? ‘I’m not telling you, but you know the final will be fast.’

Le Clos, meanwhile, is simply overjoyed to have a shot at creating something special after a season that has seen his training been hampered. Although when the 200m butterfly Olympic champion gets to these major events, he seems to switch into another zone. It’s as if winning is everything to him and although Proud is the favourite to claim gold, he will know that the pair of South Africans swimming either side of him in the final will be giving their all.

It is shaping up as one of the races of the Commonwealth Games.

Elsewhere, Karin Prinsloo reached the final of the women’s 200m freestyle but finished a disappointing eighth. ‘I wanted to go high 1:57,’ she admitted afterwards, ‘but I’ve had a bad head cold and it’s also gone to my chest. I couldn’t breathe through my nose this afternoon.’

Had she considered scratching from the race due to illness? ‘Yes, it did cross my mind and I am probably going to swim only the relays if I don’t feel better. I missed a few days out of the water and I’m a better swimmer when I’ve been in the water close to a meet.’

Myles Brown was another to leave the arena disappointed after qualifying ninth overall for the 400m freestyle, which saw him miss the cut for the final by one position. He admitted that he might have made an error in judging his pace. ‘I normally like to come from off them but the pace was on from the start and I was quite handy, especially right up to halfway,’ he said. After that it was always going to be difficult.

The medals for Team South Africa will come in the pool on Friday. On Thursday they still managed to get on the board though, in the men’s triathlon and in the men’s judo (-66kg) division. The realistic expectation from day one within the camp was to get two medals and  only the most optimistic would have thought one would be a gold.

They will come though and for now things are right on track.


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