The swimming community was fired up over the summer when South African Olympic gold medalist Chad Le Clos spoke out comparing his performances at the 2015 FINA World Championships to that of 22-time Olympic medalist Michael Phelps at U.S. Nationals.
After his 100m butterfly gold in Kazan at World Championships, Le Clos commented that “Michael Phelps has been talking about how slow the butterfly events have been recently. I just did a time he hasn’t done in four years. So he can keep quiet now.” However, Phelps’ in-pool response in San Antonio was that of a world-best 50.45 100 butterfly, further adding fuel to the intense rivalry that, if all goes according to plan, will come to a head in Rio come the 2016 Olympics.
Now several weeks removed from the cross-fire, Le Clos talked to the BBC about his admiration and respect for Phelps, the man who was once his childhood hero, only to turn into his biggest international rival.
You can listen to the 2-minute-clip here: Chad Le Clos Talks To BBC
Looking at the 18-time gold medalist’s achievements over the summer, Le Clos says in the audio clip that he didn’t expect Phelps to come back that fast that quickly, saying it was “a big shock.” He further says he’s excited to go after the gold medal in Rio, saying the goal represents being the best in the world at that moment. Le Clos equates the potential head-to-head 100m and 200m butterfly races to a ‘heavyweight title fight.’
Bert Le Clos, Chad’s father, also chimes in that the tables are somewhat turned on his son. Now that he is the reigning world champion, the target is on his back and the pressure is only mounting. Nonetheless, Le Clos makes it clear in the interview that he’s up for the challenge and ready to handle that pressure, flat-out stating, “I am not afraid of Michael Phelps.”
‘Phelps Phans’ will no doubt be clinging to their #1 swimmer’s famous comment at Nationals in San Antonio, when Phelps said, “I mean, I can do whatever I put my mind to. And this next year is going to be pretty damn fun.”