Le Clos, back home, wonders if he can beat Phelps again
Eight medals and four fourth places. South Africa’s remaining realistic medal chances at the Rio Olympics rest mostly on Caster Semenya, who was expected to advance past the semifinals early this morning.
On paper, there are still a few good chances, like race walkers Marc Mundell and Anel Oosthuizen, both in action today.
Then there are the female triathletes, Mari Rabie and Gillian Sanders, in action tomorrow.
The women’s 800m final is tomorrow night (2.15am Sunday SA time) and then there is Elroy Gelant in the men’s 5 000m final 15 minutes later.
Distance running is a funny thing. Gelant’s personal best could well be good enough for a medal.
But the art of racing involves speeding up and slowing down, which can be energy-sapping, and in the end it is likely to come down to a late kick – not Gelant’s strong point.
The marathon men, too – Lusapho April, Sibusiso Nzima and Lungile Gongqa – will hardly start the 42km as favourites, but they will back their chances of pulling off an upset.
April, in particular, has spent the past four years preparing specifically for this race – now it is up to him.
The last South Africans in action will be mountain bikers James Reid and Alan Hatherly, in the event in which the late Burry Stander ended fifth four years ago.
Neither is expected to pull this one off. It is surely all down to Semenya.
Meanwhile, Chad le Clos wants one more shot to settle the score against Olympic great Michael Phelps in the 200m butterfly.
Last week, Le Clos controversially‚ tauntingly‚ shadowboxed right in front of Phelps before the semifinal of the race at the Rio Olympics – the same event in which the South African surprisingly beat the American at the London Games four years earlier.
But that night – and in the final the following night – Phelps emerged victorious.
Phelps won gold, while Le Clos was a disappointing fourth.
“The 200 fly‚ look‚ it was the worst performance of my career. It was,” Le Clos said.
“There were reasons why it went the way it did. I won’t get into that. There are no excuses.
“I said before I would accept victory with grace and I’d accept defeat with grace.
“Me and Michael have a rivalry and I have a lot of respect for him. We go a long way back.
“Not many guys can say they’ve beaten Michael Phelps.
“The record is 1-1‚ we have a draw. Maybe there should be a third one. I think so‚” Le Clos said shortly after arriving home in Durban yesterday.
He said he would miss the battles with Phelps‚ who retired after Rio as the most decorated Olympic athlete yet, with 23 gold‚ three silver and two bronze medals for a total of 28.
Le Clos is South Africa’s alltime leading medalist with one gold‚ two silvers and a bronze.
“Just being there and being in that atmosphere was incredible. There were 20 000 people in that stadium, crazy for us.
“I’m going to miss [it].” – Additional reporting by Matthew Savides