Chad le Clos fired a warning to his 200m butterfly rivals in Durban last night, showing he was back after his Olympic disaster in that race last year.
Le Clos burnt his nearest competitors by nearly five seconds as he steamed to victory at the national championships in 1min 55.00sec, the fastest time in the world so far.
The 2012 Olympic champion in this event ended only fourth at the Rio Games, a bitter pill to swallow despite winning silver medals in two other events.
Last night’s was his second-best time in the King’s Park pool but, unlike his quickest effort in 2014, he was not shaved.
“I think it was a lot smoother than recent 200m fly [races], it didn’t kill me as much as I thought it would,” Le Clos, who has been working with Italian coach Andrea di Nino since early this year, said.
He is confident that by the world championships in Budapest in July, he will be stronger in the final 50m of the race, where he failed to deliver his trademark kick at the Rio Games.
“I’m not going to get carried away with this [time],” Le Clos said. He won the 200m freestyle earlier in the week and will race the 100m butterfly today and tomorrow.
“I’m going into Budapest as an underdog in all three events. I’m looking to come out victorious.”
Le Clos said the technical changes he had made to his stroke and turns were paying dividends.
Le Clos scratched from the blue riband 100m freestyle, where young Zane Waddell stole centre stage, upstaging a pair of Olympians as he delivered two personal bests yesterday to take pole position for the final tonight.
The 19-year-old management information systems student at the University of Alabama was the third-quickest in the morning heats when he went 49.99sec, his first occasion under 50 seconds, with Dough Erasmus going 49.85 and Brad Tandy 49.90.
Tandy scratched from the semifinals to focus on the 50m breaststroke final later in the evening, but he would have been hard-pressed to overhaul this Bloemfontein boytjie on the night.
Waddell dominated the first semifinal to win in 49.55, while Erasmus won the next one in a slower 50.26, still the second-fastest time of the night.
Waddell, coached in the US by former South African Jonty Skinner, who held the 50m and 100m freestyle world records in the 1970s, said he would not get fazed in the final.
“I’m just going to go into this race, race tough and be the quickest I can be,” Waddell said.