Le Clos’ star continues to rise

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iol spt dec23 Chad

AFP

At the 2012 London Olympics Chad le Clos toppled Michael Phelps and in 2013 it was clear he was the heir apparent to the American.

Johannesburg – At the 2012 London Olympics Chad le Clos toppled the king of the pool and in 2013 it was clear he was the heir apparent to American swimming icon Michael Phelps' throne.

In the absence of his childhood hero, Le Clos started to create his own legacy this year and did so in emphatic fashion at the Fina World Championships in Barcelona.

Le Clos won both the 100 and 200m butterfly gold medals becoming the first South African swimmer to win two events in the same discipline at the August showpiece.

In the process, he became only the second man, after Phelps, to have won the butterfly double at the world championships.

Olympic gold medallist and world record holder Cameron van der Burgh narrowly lost to Australian Christian Sprenger in the men's 100m breaststroke, while he added gold in the 50m breaststroke.

To add to the occasion, Van der Burgh's long-time friend and swimming partner Giulio Zorzi joined him on the podium as he claimed the bronze medal in the shorter event.

In a touching moment during the medal ceremony, Van der Burgh pulled Zorzi onto the highest podium and put his arm around his friend's shoulder while the South African national anthem was being played.

The South African team did better than ever before at the world championships, in terms of gold medals - winning three. The last time they collected a five-medal haul was in Melbourne in 2005.

South African swimming legend Roland Schoeman continued to produce age-defying performances this year, finishing seventh in the men's 50m freestyle at the world championships.

On his way to the final he had equalled his own South African record set five years ago in Beijing.

Veteran swimmer Gerhard Zandberg, who had been on the 50m backstroke podium in four of the five last championships, failed to advance to the finals.

Swimming at his first world championships, emerging distance swimmer Myles Brown reached the 400m freestyle final finishing in sixth place.

Turning his attention to the short course series, Le Clos was in a class of his own and broke the 200m butterfly world short-course record on two occasions.

The first was at the Eindhoven, Netherlands, leg in August, clocking one minute, 49:04 seconds (1:49.04) before he broke it again in Singapore in 1:48.56.

Le Clos went on to win the overall Swimming World Cup title for the second time Ä after winning the 2011 series Ä and completely dominated the eight-leg short-course series.

The 21-year-old bagged a total of 24 gold medals, eight silver and three bronze medals to establish himself as the crown prince of the pool.

His demonstrated his versatility by increasingly showing dominance in the individual medley and freestyle events as well.

Swimming partner Brown also made great strides on the world stage, breaking the Africa and South African records in the 400m and 1500m freestyle events in Eindhoven.

Brown regularly featured on the podium in the 200m and 400m freestyle events and was also a dominant force in his specialist 1500m distance.

Schoeman was once again masterful in the sprint events on the World Cup circuit and remained unchallenged in the 50m breaststroke throughout the series.

He also rarely missed a spot on the podium in the 50m butterfly and freestyle strokes.

The South African women's swimming team remained a concern with Karin Prinsloo producing the only noteworthy performance at the Barcelona world championships.

Prinsloo came agonisingly close to breaking Melissa Corfe's South African record in the women's 200m backstroke by 0.01

seconds, while she was also 0.03 seconds off her South African 100m freestyle record.

South African swimming experienced its fair share of drama out of the pool with Zandberg's retirement from the sport taking centre stage.

Zandberg closed the curtain on his swimming career after he failed in his appeal of a suspension and a fine by Swimming SA (SSA) for breaking team rules at the world championships.

The swimmer's legal representative Karen van Eck later confirmed they had approached the High Court to overturn the fine and sanction and the case was still ongoing.

However, on October 16 Zandberg tweeted: “Today...my swimming career has come to an end.”

Earlier in the year, the SA Swimming Championships in Port Elizabeth was overshadowed by the poor quality of the water at the Newton Park Swimming Pool.

A burst pipe turned the water grass-green a day before the start of the event which led to the postponement of the second day of the national gala championships.

South African women's swimming took a further knock with the retirement of top swimmer Suzaan van Biljon.

Van Biljon finished seventh in the women's 200m breaststroke final at the London Olympic Games. – Sapa


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