Chad le Clos powering his way to another butterfly medal. He will be taking part in four events in the SA Championships in Durban. Picture: EPA
Hell-bent on reclaiming his world 200m butterfly title, Chad le Clos will be looking to make a statement at the South African Swimming Championships starting in Durban on Monday.

The country’s top swimmers will ascend on the coastal city for the week-long gala which doubles up as trials for the Fina World Championships in Budapest in July.

Le Clos has made his intentions clear of making amends for losing his 200m crowns at both the 2015 World Championships and the Rio 2016 Games.

“I will not have much of a taper, everything is on track and looking good. I’m looking forward to nationals, and I’ve never been this excited for a season,” Le Clos said.

“I am super happy where I am now with the new coach and the new system that is in place.”

Le Clos’ focus at the national championships will be on the 100m and 200m butterfly and the 200m freestyle.

The Olympic gold medallist boasts the second fastest 100m butterfly time in the world so far this year with the 52.20 seconds he posted in Durban in February.

Le Clos conceded his 200m butterfly title at the previous World Championships when Hungary’s Laszlo Cseh narrowly beat him to the wall.

To add salt to the wounds, Le Clos completely missed out on a podium finish in his pet event at the Rio Olympic Games with arch rival and American swimming legend Michael Phelps reclaiming the title he lost four years previously in London.

Le Clos is ranked fifth in the world in the 200m butterfly with his time of 1:56.54 - Japan's Tamas Kenderesi currently in top spot with 1:55.20.

“I still have to show respect for nationals and come prepared, I’ve done it before where I just rock up and expect good times where I squeaked it but where it was too close for comfort,” Le Clos said.

“I haven't felt ready to swim a personal best recently but I am looking to try and do so at nationals."

Fellow Olympic medallist Cameron van der Burgh has not cracked the top 50 yet this year, having raced only once in the 100m breaststroke posting a time of 1:02.04 in Stellenbosch.

South African females are meanwhile finally making inroads with breaststroker Tatjana Schoenmaker and backstroker Mariela Venter leading the way.

Schoenmaker dipped well below the 200m breaststroke qualifying time in Stellenbosch when she posted a new personal best of 2:24.93, taking a second-and-a-half off her previous top time.

Chad le Clos Picture: PATRICK KRAEMER, EPA

Last year Schoenmaker posted an Olympic qualifying time in the same pool but missed the mark by 0.01 seconds at the trials. The time sees her ranked fourth in the world so far this year while her 100m breaststroke time of 1:08.06 is the 18th fastest.

Venter, who also narrowly missed out on a spot at last year’s Olympics, boasts the 17th fastest time in the world with her season’s best of 1:01.16.

Schoenmaker and Venter are South Africa’s biggest hopes of sending women to the global showpiece after the country failed to qualify a single female in Kazan, Russia two years ago.

Sunday Independent