Le Clos: “Phelps And I Are the Favorites Next Year”

This summer, swim enthusiasts around the world were eager spectators in the competitive back and forth between butterfly virtuosi Michael Phelps (USA) and Chad Le Clos (South Africa).  Both men put up incredible 100m and 200m butterfly times across the World Championships in Kazan (Le Clos) and the U.S. National Championships (Phelps), but the in-water feud was also fueled by some out-of-pool talk on the part of Le Clos.

Now a month removed from the intense action, Le Clos spoke to Sport 24 about his post-Worlds goals and what it will take for the 23-year old to repeat his monster 2012 Olympics performance when, once again, set upon the world’s biggest competitive sporting stage in Rio next year.

“I want to be known as the best butterfly swimmer of all time and I know if I beat him (Phelps) next year, win the double gold and break his world records there is no question to ask”, said Le Clos prior to leaving for this week’s All African Games.  “I started training hard already, there is no more distractions and I’m going back to my roots where I didn’t have a cellphone and there are some personal things I need to tweak.”

Keep in mind, however, that, come Rio, it may not just be Phelps that Le Clos has to conquer.  As he discovered at world championships, Hungarian Laszlo Cseh is far from being out of the hunt for medals in 2016.  As evidence, Cseh put up a gold medal-winning 200m butterfly time of 1:53.48 at world championships to steal the title away from Le Clos, who finished just two tenths behind in 1:53.68.  

Of the second place finish, Le Clos now says, “I learned a lot of lessons from this, it would have been better for me (conceding the title)… it is a bit upsetting but in the bigger scheme of things it didn’t make any difference in my preparation (for Rio).”  Trying to put things into perspective, he continued, “If not it made me hungrier to be stronger, I know I need to go two seconds faster than I did this year because it will take a world record to win it next year.” 

Le Clos also candidly admitted that, “The most frustrating thing for me is I haven’t done a PB (personal best) since London, so at the World Cups I will have a full go and see what I can do.” In contrast, Phelps’ National Title-winning 200m butterfly time of 1:52.94 from San Antonio was the fastest the 30 year-old had registered since his world record-setting performance in 2009.  

Phelps then followed that up with a head-turning 50.45 100m butterfly to claim his 2nd national title of 2015, clocking a time, which incredibly was faster than his 100m butterfly gold medal-winning performance at the 2012 London Olympic Games.

Reflecting on the scrutiny and media spotlight on both athletes during those intense few days in August, Le Clos now says that his post-race comments, which included “Phelps can be quiet now”, were rooted in the South African’s so-called ‘doubters’. “It was more the fact that I did a time that Phelps hasn’t done in a long time, and it was more the fact that everybody was doubting me and that Michael swam such a fast time in the 200m fly.  Of his own stellar 50.56 100m butterfly performance that won gold in Kazan, Le Clos expressed, “I wanted to show everybody that it was just a bad race, so I was just happy with the way I bounced back.”

According to Le Clos, headed into 2016, he and Phelps are the undisputed “favorites for next year” with “everybody speaking about how big it is going to be with what is going on between Michael and me.” If this summer was any indication of the ferocity with which the two will compete in Rio, Le Clos may indeed be proven right.

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5 years ago

“I want to be known as the best butterfly swimmer of all time”..
unless he swims 47 low and 1.47 mid hes not gonna be. what a great swimmer but full of disrespect, nobody i repeat nobody other than MP will ever be the greatest butterflyer of all time. i even think ian crocker would be a better one than le clos if there would be a ranking. thought he learned his lesson about talkin smack.. he should look at the weekly poll on swimswam lol

Gina Rhinestone
Reply to  anonymoose
5 years ago

What has 47 low & 147 got to do with fly?

Irish Ringer
Reply to  Gina Rhinestone
5 years ago

I think it’s a reference that Le Clos would have to do something amazing to bump Phelps off that pedestal. A 47 low and 147 mid 100/200 fly would be rather amazing.

Reply to  anonymoose
5 years ago

“I want to be known as the best butterfly swimmer of all time…”………Well, people in hell want ice water- that don’t mean they get it.

2 points name that movie!

5 years ago

(Sorry for the incomplete comment above; I don’t know how to delete it.)
“The most frustrating thing for me is I haven’t done a PB since London …”
Be honest with yourself, Chad – you swim to win, not to get best times in the big races when you are in peak condition! I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that, necessarily, I’m just saying what any swim coach would tell their athletes – you’re not going to swim a PB when you waste time craning your neck around to look at your competitors! I give Mr. Le Clos high marks for how competitive he is, and he sure finishes his races with determination, but he’s not going… Read more »

5 years ago

So sick of Le Clos . Even if he won double gold with WRs that’s still no where near Phelps and his domination of butterfly . Sorry but the guy has 5 individual golds and 1 silver in Olympic competition ALONE in butterfly , not to mention all the world champs . Sorry Le Clos , but until you three peat the 200 fly , go a 1:48 WR and 49.0 WR in the 100 and win the 100 fly twice at the Olympics , you aren’t even in contention for the title of greatest butterflyer of all time

About Retta Race

Retta Race

After 16 years at a Fortune 1000 financial company, long-time swimmer Retta Race decided to change lanes and pursue her sporting passion. She currently is Coach for the Northern KY Swordfish Masters, a team she started up in December 2013, while also offering private coaching. Retta is also an MBA …

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