Chad le Clos just stays alive in 200m butterfly as Kristof Milak flexes his muscles
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CAPE TOWN - HE was up against the new king of the butterfly event, Kristof Milak of Hungary, but Chad le Clos loves the grand stage himself.
And it doesn’t get any bigger than the Olympics. A four-time medallist – the most by a South African – over a glittering swimming career, Le Clos arrived in Tokyo for one last shot at glory, despite being an outside bet to even reach the final.
But the 29-year-old survived and is still alive after his 200m butterfly heat at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre on Monday.
Le Clos made a superb start, trailing Milak by just 0.17 seconds after the first 50 metres, and got even closer to the latter as they neared the 100m mark, turning just 0.07 seconds behind.
The Hungarian, though, began opening up a bit more as he made his way through 150m, stretching his lead by over a second.
But Le Clos was already down to third position by then, with Brazil’s Leonardo de Deus producing an outstanding 28.75 split in the second 50m.
Milak cruised to victory in 1 minute, 53.58 (1:53.58), well short of his world record of 1:50.73, but he did what he had to do to advance to Tuesday’s semi-finals.
De Deus ended second in 1:54.83, but Le Clos faded to fifth in 1:55.96 over the last 50m as Japan’s Tomoru Honda (1:55.10) and Krzysztof Chmielewski of Poland (1:55.77) finished in third and fourth. Another South African, Ethan du Preez, came eighth and last in 1:58.50.
With only the top 16 going through to the semi-finals on Tuesday, Le Clos had to wait for an anxious few seconds to see whether his time was fast enough – and it was just, in 16th spot.
The other South African in the pool in the Monday evening session, Rebecca Meder, finished seventh in the 200m individual medley in 2:14.17, and it was also enough to place her in 15th position and send her through to Tuesday’s semi-finals.