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Le Clos in seventh heaven after Commonwealth frenzy
- Updated: July 29, 2014
By Gary Lemke
Chad le Clos talked the talk and then he walked the walk. Two bronze medals in the pool on Tuesday night in Glasgow – one secured by the length of a chewed fingernail – took his tally to seven, equalling the Commonwealth Games record of legendary Australian Ian Thorpe from Manchester 2002.
Swimming has done its part at these Commonwealth Games, picking up 12 in South Africa’s overall total of 26. The first of Le Clos’ two medals on Tuesday, and the sixth medal of these Commonwealth Games came in the men’s 200m Individual Medley – although it was a desperately close thing. He was forced to dig deep to edge out Australian Thomas Fraser-Holmes by one-hundredth of a second.
‘It’s been a great week and that first 50m butterfly medal was a big one for me to get things going,’ said Le Clos. ‘The other highlights were the relays. This is a great bunch of guys with a fantastic spirit,’ he added after returning to swim a blistering butterfly leg in the 4x100m medley relay final, and then watching as teammate and friend Leith Shankland brought the team home in bronze in 3:33.47. Sebastien Rousseau and Cameron van der Burgh had swum the first two legs, but it was a team effort. ‘Everyone backs each other,’ said Rousseau, who himself had a breakthrough competition.
Rousseau had started off with a 55.33 in the backstroke and Van der Burgh clawed it back to fourth before Le Clos took the team into medal territory and Shankland kept them there, swimming strongly. ‘I didn’t know I was going to be starting off, so I hadn’t prepared for it. But going forward I hope to be in this team and then I can hand over to Cameron in a better position. We’ve got the fastest breaststroker and butterfly swimmer in the world in the second and third legs,’ he said.
Le Clos had targeted seven Commonwealth Games medals and he got to his sixth literally by his fingertips. A blistering opening butterfly 50m had seen him reach the turn in 24.25sec, 0.64 seconds ahead of world record pace, but it was the third leg, the breaststroke, in which he was overhauled.
Rousseau had also shown up well early on and at halfway the South Africans were 1-2, but he too faded in the second half to bring up the field in 2:01.61. For both though, their Commonwealth Games assignment was not yet over. They were both called upon to represent the country in the 4x100m medley relay final in that final push to make history for Le Clos.
The young superstar had faltered on that breaststroke leg, where his lead evaporated and he was swallowed up by the field. Halfway down the 50m freestyle final his medal chances looked slim, and stretching out towards the wall it looked mighty close to the naked eye. Indeed it was, with just 0.01 seconds between him and Thomas Fraser-Holmes, swimming on the far side of the pool in lane one. But he got to the wall when it mattered and touched in 1:58.85, with Australian Daniel Tranter taking gold in 1:59.05.
‘I was a little lucky to get that medal. I was so tired,’ Le Clos admitted.
Earlier, the curtain came down on Roland Schoeman’s glittering Commonwealth Games’ career and he admitted ‘this is it’ after finishing sixth in the final of the men’s 50m freestyle, in 22.36 in Glasgow on Tuesday night. Brad Tandy was seventh, in 22.34.
‘It’s disappointing, I need to go figure things out. A few weeks ago I was swimming 22.0 and that would have been good enough to get me on the podium here. But, you’re only as good as your last swim, so this is it,’ Schoeman said.
Schoeman, who won two silver medals in these championships – in the men’s 50m butterfly and 4x100m freestyle relay – cited Glasgow 2014 and Melbourne 2006 as the two biggest moments of his Commonwealth career.
He stopped short of calling time on his career as a whole, but after the London 2012 Olympics he said he was ‘taking things one day at a time’, and again after the 50m butterfly in Glasgow he had uttered the same words, although considered himself still in good form and health and enjoying seeing the world.
Myles Brown was always considered an outsider in the men’s 1500m freestyle final, although he was hoping for a good swim after the disappointment of missing out on a place in the 400m final. The pace was always too hot for him, although his time of 15:17.89 will have done nothing to restore his confidence.
He finished eighth – last – and was some 33 seconds off the winner, the favourite, Canadian Ryan Cochrane. ‘I tend to suffer from nerves. I was in good shape physically but will need to work on my mental side some more. I was really nervous.’