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Chad le Clos looked different yesterday morning in the mixed zone.
Like the day before, he had water still dripping off him and his chest was heaving from the effort, but something had changed.
It may have been the set of his shoulders, the way he carried himself.
The legacy of Cameron van der Burgh’s gold medal has already begun to take hold.
“The mood in the camp is spectacular now,” said Le Clos, who qualified for tonight’s 200m butterfly final by finishing second in last night’s semifinal in a time of 1:54.34.
“We’re obviously so very proud of him. He definitely deserved it. It was probably one of the greatest moments I have ever seen.
“To watch South Africa win a gold is incredible. We were in tears, most of us. It was very, very emotional. It’s hard to describe. I thought like I was swimming.”
Le Clos had been disappointed with his swim in the 400m individual medley at the weekend, when he finished fifth behind the great Michael Phelps.
The revered American, |who finished fourth, did not win a medal in an Olympic final for the first time since his debut as a 15-year old in Sydney.
Le Clos looked up to him, but if there had been fear before, it was replaced by belief – thanks to Van der Burgh’s world record and victory on Sunday night.
“It’s picked me up a lot. Everyone is really excited to see what we can do. I am super excited. I woke up this morning and went, ‘wow’. We’re on the map now, we’ll see how it goes,” said Le Clos, who set a personal best and a new South African and African record.
More importantly, he was the second-fastest qualifier and will have a central lane.
American Phelps won his semi-final in 1:54.53 as the fourth-fastest. It’s a medal chance for the fast-finishing Durban man.
Le Clos now believes more podiums are entirely possible and with Van der Burgh back in the pool this weekend, there is a chance of a medal in the men’s 4x100 medley.
Charl Crous did not have the greatest of swims in the backstroke, but Van der Burgh believes he will come right.
“We still have a couple of days to go. It’s on Saturday. It’s his first Olympic Games, so it may be jitters and nerves.
“Charl can be fast and can swim well. If we can get him to calm down we can have a really good chance. If he can go 53 (seconds), which I believe he can, then we have a good chance,” said Van der Burgh, who was still coming to terms with the term “Olympic champion”.
“I’ve ticked all the boxes, world records, world championships, Commonwealth Games, and now I’ve got the Olympics.
“But I couldn’t have done it without other people in my life, my family and friends, and people like my coach Dirk Lange, Ryk (Neethling, his manager) and my psychologist,” said Van der Burgh.
“Dirk mentored me yesterday and kept me calm. I was also constantly reminded of a quote from my psychologist which goes, ‘as if all my life has been about preparing for this one moment’. I took that into the race and concentrated on the race.
“I knew I’d got to the turn fast – as we’d planned. From there, for the final 50 metres, the thought was ‘give it all those last four years of hard work’.
“The pain was excruciating but I wasn’t going to give in. I concentrated on maintaining my stroke, keeping going strongly to the end.”
Le Clos will be off the blocks at 8.48pm (SA time) to-night. It will be broadcast on SuperSport HD2.