African Recap Day 3: Le Clos’ Risky Strategy Pays Off


Chad Le Clos, one of if not THE highest profile African swimmer at these Games, swam the third-fastest time in the men’s 200 fly this morning during prelims. Tonight, he had to pull out a tough double with the 200 free final and the 200 fly semifinals, and it turned out pretty well for him.

Le Clos, who is certainly better-known for his prowess in the butterfly events as the defending 2012 Olympic Champion in the 200 fly, has had a noticeable 200 free race strategy at these games.

In prelims, Le Clos was howling out of the gates, charging to a huge lead after the first 50 and 100. Though the field caught up to him, he sailed through to the semifinals.

Le Clos swam the same way in semifinals, and though he died hard again at the end, he found himself a spot in the final in lane 1. Outside smoke, anyone? In tonight’s final, as has become normal for Le Clos, he was out like a rocket.

The 200 free was supposed to be about defending World Champ James Guy and distance free stalwart Sun Yang, and then after that, Japanese star Kosuke Hagino. And then the Americans. But, there was Le Clos, still well in contention with 10 meters left in lane 1. And, at the wall, the rest of the field couldn’t catch him. Only Sun of China edged ahead of him, and after a frenzy of a finish, Le Clos had earned silver.

In addition to his silver, Le Clos’s time of 1:45.20 set a new African continental record, sneaking ahead of the 1:45.67 done in 2009 by his countrymate Jean Basson.

Later, Le Clos completed a successful double with a decent swim in the 200 fly that will give him lane 6 next to… Michael Phelps in the final. These Olympics have been dramatic, what with the Lilly King – Yulia Efimova rivalry, and the Phelps-Le Clos rivalry will be a must-watch race tomorrow night.

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4 years ago

Holy hell is tomorrow’s race going to be tense. Love that Le Clos brought a little bit of Usain Bolt’s pre-race antics to the dressing room, makes it more attractive to casual fans and raises the stakes in Muhammad Ali sort of way. No matter who wins the race itself, we all win by getting to see these two incredible athletes go head to head in lanes right next to each other. Couldn’t have scripted it better.

4 years ago

It worked in that it got him a medal, but it may have given the gold to Sun. I’m impressed he held on so well after that opening. It’s hard to imagine that that is the optimal strategy, and not unreasonable to say he could have been 1:44 mid with a smarter race. Not my call, and it’s way more olympic medals than I’ll ever have, but dang.

4 years ago

Love the strategy, get out hard and let his competitive spirit bring it home.

About Karl Ortegon

Karl Ortegon

Karl Ortegon studied sociology at Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT, graduating in May of 2018. He began swimming on a club team in first grade and swam four years for Wesleyan.

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