Disclaimer: BlueSeventy Swim of the Week is not meant to be a conclusive selection of the best overall swim of the week, but rather one Featured Swim to be explored in deeper detail. The BlueSeventy Swim is an opportunity to take a closer look at the context of one of the many fast swims this week, perhaps a swim that slipped through the cracks as others grabbed the headlines, or a race we didn’t get to examine as closely in the flood of weekly meets.
The breakout star of the 2012 Olympics and nearly unstoppable in the two years following, South Africa’s Chad le Clos had a rough go of it at the 2016 Olympics.
Perhaps it was his entry into the 200 free, where le Clos swam three consecutive races (heats, semifinals, finals) that could be described anywhere from “incredibly gutsy” to “completely reckless” based on huge front-half splits, that tired him out for his signature butterfly events. Perhaps it was a little too much trash talk since London that fired up Michael Phelps to unbeatable levels in the 200 fly. Perhaps it was just two loaded butterfly fields that didn’t leave room for everyone to medal.
Whatever it was, le Clos returned home with just two silvers, then took a lighter World Cup load and lost the series points to Russia’s Vladimir Morozov.
But the past few weeks have seen le Clos rapidly return to the top of his game, highlighted by three golds and a silver at Short Course Worlds in Windsor, Canada. The biggest was a world-record win over Tom Shields in the 100 fly.
The leadup to the race was classic. A week out of Short Course Worlds, Shields swam at U.S. Winter Nationals, putting up the fastest time in history in the short course yards format of the 100 fly. His time of 43.80 broke the record set last spring by Olympic champ Joseph Schooling. But Le Clos, training at a YMCA in Connecticut in preparation for Worlds, jumped into the yards format for his own 100 fly the same week, going 44.25 in one of his first-ever swims in yards.
That set up a dramatic showdown between the two at Short Course Worlds, with Schooling and Phelps not present. And it was le Clos who completed his return to the top, blowing out Shields by a full second and breaking the world record in 48.08
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