By Gary Lemke in London
Chad le Clos delivered another first for South Africa. He showed the nation what silver looks like as he added another Olympic medal to his, and the country’s collection at London 2012.
‘I know I said before the race that I didn’t want to win because it was [Olympic legend] Michael Phelps’ last appearance, but when I got here I guess I wanted to win,’ the 20-year-old sensation said after another thrilling finish that carried him to a tie for second behind Phelps, in 51.44 seconds in the men’s 100m butterfly final.
That gave him a set of gold and silver in his first Olympics ÔÇô and there’s the promise of more to come. It also upped South Africa’s medal tally to four, on a night that Roland Schoeman finished sixth in the men’s 50m freestyle final, in 22.80 sec.
After touching the wall, Le Clos, in the lane next to Phelps, went across and gave the American a handshake and a few taps on the shoulder.┬á┬áPhelps ┬áis now one race away from retirement and has 21 Olympic medals, 17 of them gold.
What words were exchanged and they climbed out of the water? ÔÇ£I promised myself before the race that I’d tell him that he was my idol. So I did, but I think he pretty much knew that already.ÔÇØ
And what did the Greatest Of All Time say to him? ÔÇ£He said thanks and he said that he’s looking forward to watching me do great things in the future.┬á That was like, wow, ja…ÔÇØ
Le Clos had gone into the race knowing it would be his final swim of his debut Games. Earlier in the day he had swum the butterfly leg in an overall disappointing 4x100m medley team display when not even the presence of two gold medallists could get the team through to Saturday’s final.
However, it also meant that he didn’t have to keep anything back. He wasn’t going to die wondering, even if it was against all odds that he could again upset Phelps after doing so in the 200m butterfly.
Le Clos had lowered his personal best, and the South African record, to 51.42 in the semi-finals. ÔÇ£At least I’m swimming next to Phelps again. That’s a great honour.ÔÇØ The American himself had told the new kid on the block, following the 200m butterfly gold, that he was ÔÇ£handing over the torchÔÇØ.
And it’s a torch that is going to shine brightly for years to come.
In the race itself Le Clos had got off to a decent start from lane five but found himself swallowed up by the speedsters and actually reached the 50m wall last, with Phelps only seventh. ÔÇ£I started to stress a bit at that stage and thought I’d left it too late to get a medal. But then I had a great turn and in the last 25 metres I really started pushing. I just wish that in the last 20 I could have got an extra stroke. But I’m not disappointed with silver,ÔÇØ he added.
Schoeman, racing in lane eight, finished sixth in 22.80, with the winner coming from the lane inside him, France’s Florent Manaudou. Afterwards the four-time Olympian, three-time medallist, expressed his frustration at a lack of funding which he feels would have helped him to a medal.
ÔÇ£The time was a bit slow and I’d like to have won a medal but for someone who has to dip into their own savings and not been funded by anyone, to be written off and then come here and then place sixth in the Olympic final, I’ll take that,ÔÇØ he said.