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It’s gold as Le Clos reigns supreme and targets more
- Updated: July 26, 2014
By Gary Lemke
Chad le Clos has made no secret of the fact that he has targeted a record seven medals from these Commonwealth Games and after three finals in Glasgow he already has a full house.
Le Clos is not a superstar by South African standards only. He’s a global phenomenon. ‘I’d like to break [Australian] Ian Thorpe’s record of six medals in a Games. I now have three, have swum two personal best times in the process and set a Games record.
‘I’d like to think I’ve got a chance here of winning four golds and three others. I’ve said before that my preparation this year hasn’t been great and next year I’d like to see if I can attack Michael Phelps’ [200m butterfly] world record.’
Le Clos was in a class of his own again on Saturday night, again turning his head to seek out the opposition and then applying the after burners in the final 50m as he raced home to win the 200m butterfly gold – his signature event – in 1min 55.07sec, with Australia’s Grant Irvine 1.27sec behind with Sebastien Rousseau third.
The other big hope for a gold last night was Olympic champion in the 100m breaststroke, Cameron van der Burgh, but he admitted to ‘seizing up in the last 25 metres’ as he was hauled in by England’s Adam Peaty who win in 58.94, with the South African taking silver in 59.28.
Van der Burgh raced through the first 50 metres and had a healthy advantage with 25m to go. ‘At the turn I thought I had it,’ he admitted. ‘But now it’s back to the drawing board. Maybe it’s the work I’ve been putting in for the 200m [for Rio 2016] and maybe I had to work too much to get the speed. But, better for this to happen this year than another year. I’ve got motivation for the next two years.’
Rousseau battled on gamely for his second bronze of the championships (1:56.43) after also picking up bronze in the 400m individual medley on Friday night and then paid tribute to the ‘amazing gees’ within Team South Africa’s squad. ‘The atmosphere is great … it’s almost as though we’re not swimming for ourselves but for others in the team. I was in a lot of pain tonight, but it was worth it. My best time would have given me the silver, but I left it all out there in the pool.’
There had been an overnight scare for Le Clos while getting off the bus after arriving back at the village with the team. ‘I slipped and twisted my right ankle. I actually got a fright because I thought, whoa, I might be a bit hurt. This morning the ankle was swollen and we applied ice but it was still sore coming here for the heats. Luckily it didn’t affect me much,’ he revealed.
In New Dehli in 2010, Le Clos had announced his arrival on the international stage with a Commonwealth Games record of 1:56.48. Although he had downed Phelps at London 2012 to win Olympic gold in 1:52.96, he and coach Graham Hill planned to race a 1:55 on Saturday night.
‘With respect to the other swimmers, because I respect them all, tonight was all about the win and not the time. It all went according to plan. I just had to get my hands to the wall first, that was my goal. I wanted to keep it comfortable.’
Le Clos’ gold pushed the Team SA tally up to three for the day after para lawn bowls and judo had earlier got the country off the mark.
Leith Shankland reached Sunday’s final of the men’s 100m freestyle after finishing third in his heat in 49.35, which was faster than the 49.64 he had timed in the morning heats. He will go into the final with confidence as the fourth quickest after also performing well in the 4x100m freestyle, where an impressive third leg helped the team to the silver medal.
He will be the lone swimmer in the event after Clayton Jimmie finished sixth in his semi-final in 50.50.