Chad le Clos thrilled to face Kristof Milak in 200m butterfly final: ‘Kill or be killed!’
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CAPE TOWN - WHEN Chad le Clos gets into competition mode, the rest of the field better watch out.
So keen and competitive is the 29-year-old South African that he comes across as a boxer hyping up his title fight for the ‘heavyweight championship of the world’.
Le Clos wouldn’t have felt too good after his heat in the 200m butterfly on Monday at the Tokyo Olympics, though, as he finished fifth in a time of 1:55.96. It was just enough to get him into the semi-finals as the 16th and last qualifier, so he got a second chance.
And didn’t he grab it in Tuesday’s first semi-final. The four-time Olympic medallist shot out of the blocks and led from start to finish to win in a time of 1:55.06 to book his place in Wednesday’s final (3.49am SA time), where Hungary’s Kristof Milak is almost a sure bet for gold, as the world record-holder won his semi-final in 1:52.22.
Not that Le Clos fears the 21-year-old, though. “It’s the reason why I’m here – otherwise I’m missing finals! What do you think?” he told reporters after the semi-final.
“I’ve got the Springbok here on my suit, so it gave me a bit of motivation. Tatjana (Schoenmaker, who won a silver medal in the 100m breaststroke on Tuesday) gave me a bit of motivation… I don’t know. It’s the Olympic Games, guys. Maybe took it for granted yesterday, came in a little bit sloppy. Nearly paid for it, so I guess I was lucky.
“Today, I made sure I was in the final, and we’ll see tomorrow, we’ll see what happens. Tough pace, tough competitors, of course. Milak the huge favourite, as everyone knows. But we’ll kill or be killed! That’s how I go! Simple.”
Once the adrenaline was pumping a bit slower, Le Clos acknowledged how good Milak is, and reflected on his glittering career, including the gold medal he won in the 200m butterfly at the 2012 London Olympics, when he beat the great Michael Phelps.
“Unbelievable swimmer. Great guy too, actually. I spent some time with him on the tour, and what can you say about him – he is phenomenal. I wish him all the best. He is still young and has a big future in the sport,” he said about Milak.
“I mean, I like it that he’s there. I like the race. I enjoy the challenge. I would rather lose to a Milak than win if he got disqualified, for example. I pride myself on racing the best, and nothing’s changed. I’m here, I’m standing here today – the same guy I was 10, 12 years ago. Hungry kid that’s just trying to win for his country.
“It’s unbelievable, man. It still gives me tears to watch that (London 2012) again, but look, it’s special, you know. Sometimes lockdown makes you realise how special a moment it’s been… I’m going to cry now, man! It’s just beautiful to be here.”
Le Clos also said that he would keep going until the 2024 Paris Olympics. “Easily. Easily, easily, easily. Absolutely. I’ll be better in Paris, I promise you!
“I will do anything to be Olympic champion again, I really would. So, hopefully one day… I believe I am still going to be champion one day. I don’t know about this Olympics – 2024, we’ll see what happens. I believe I will, somewhere, in my future.”