Golden butterfly double for Le Clos as Van Niekerk secures silver

Chad le Clos and Lara van Niekerk ensured Team South Africa finished the World Short Course Championships in Melbourne on a high on Sunday. Le Clos completed a golden... Read more
Golden butterfly double for Le Clos as Van Niekerk secures silver

Chad le Clos and Lara van Niekerk ensured Team South Africa finished the World Short Course Championships in Melbourne on a high on Sunday.

Le Clos completed a golden butterfly double by adding the 100m title to the 200m he won during the week.

The predicted battle between Le Clos, defending champion Matteo Rivolta of Italy and Switzerland’s Noe Ponti (the top three through the semifinals) didn’t materialise with Le Clos cruising to victory in a time of 48.59, beating Ilya Kharun, who swam a world junior record of 49.03 for silver, while German Marius Kusch took the bronze in 49.12.

Ponti was fourth in 49.25 and Rivolta fifth in 49.32.

This was a fifth world short course 100m butterfly gold for Le Clos after winning in 2012, 2014, 2016 and 2018 but being denied by Rivolta in 2021. It was also an impressive 12th career short course world title dating back to 2010.

Looking back on the last week, the 30-year-old said: “I’ve won 12 world titles individually now, but the most important world title was that 200 fly, just to get myself back.

“It’s been amazing having my dad travel with me for the last three or four weeks, and having my coach with me for the last few months. It’s been a very special time,” he added.

Van Niekerk was next to earn her spot on the podium in the 50m breaststroke. The 19-year-old had a characteristically slow start and turned in seventh position but powered back to finish second in yet another African record of 29.09. Only Lithuanian Ruta Meilutyte, who shattered the world record in Saturday’s semifinals, was quicker, taking gold in 28.50. American Lilly King had to settle for the bronze in 29.11.

Le Clos and Van Niekerk’s medals, in addition to Matt Sates’ gold in the 200m individual medley and bronze in the 400m individual medley saw South Africa finishing fifth on the medal table in Melbourne, behind the USA, Australia, Italy and Canada.

Earlier in the day, neither Sates nor Pieter Coetzé made it through their respective heats in their final events on Sunday. Sates finished fourth in his 200m freestyle heat in 1:43.22 (well off the world junior record of 1:40.65 he set last year) which meant he was 13th overall. Coetzé finished 10th overall in the 200m backstroke in a time of 1:51.51.

The only other South Africans in action were Hannah Pearse, who finished 20th overall in the women’s 200m backstroke in 2:08.34 and the women’s 4x100m medley relay team. Milla Drakopoulos Emily Visagie, Rebecca Meder and Caitlin de Lange set a new African record of 3:59.64 to finish 12th overall. The previous record of 4:00.73 had been set by Melissa Corfe, Suzaan van Biljon, Mandy Loots and Lize-Marie Retief 14 years ago.

Photo: World Aquatics

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