Just three days after firing verbal shots at American Olympic icon Michael Phelps, South Africa’s Chad Le Clos seems to have backed off his “he can keep quiet now”-esque demeanor.
To refresh, South African Chad Le Clos had some choice words after winning the 100m butterfly gold medal at the 2015 World Championships in Kazan this past week. When asked about Phelps’ post-race, Le Clos offered up, “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.” Le Clos won the gold in Kazan in 50.56, which at the time, marked the second-fastest textile swim ever.
However, Phelps responded that same night not with words, but with actions, as the 18-time Olympic gold medalist threw down the world’s fastest 100m butterfly time at U.S. Nationals, registering a 50.45 to knock the breath right out of Le Clos’ comments.
Now in an interview with Rio2016.com, Le Clos expresses his respect for Phelps, saying, “Obviously Michael Phelps is the greatest of all time and he would not come back for fun,”, referring to Phelps’ return from retirement post-2012 London Olympics. With Phelps’ commanding performance at U.S. Nationals, Le Clos clearly recognizes that “He’ll be coming to win and he will be a huge threat to my goals.”
And what are those goals? Le Clos said, “the Rio Olympics are my main focus”, confirming that “I will be in the best shape of my life for Rio and gold is on my mind. The butterfly races are on my mind and Michael Phelps‘ butterfly world records [100m and 200m] have been on my mind since I won gold in London.”
“Obviously the 49.82 seconds [Phelps’ 100m butterfly world record] will be the toughest – Michael was the first one to go below 50 seconds,” said Le Clos. “But I am feeling good and will be in great shape. The main thing I need to work on is my front end, as the second half of my race is much stronger.” With Phelps’ blistering 50.45 from San Antonio, Le Clos certainly cannot sit comfortably with his gold from Kazan. Le Clos also points to Japan’s Daiya Seto and Americans Tom Shields and Ryan Lochte as potential threats to a Rio victory.
Putting his role as his nation’s ambassador at the Olympics in perspective, Le Clos expressed how “The Olympics are huge in South Africa. Swimming is always popular because we usually do well in it, so everyone will be watching. I will have the hopes of the nation on my shoulders come 5 August [Olympic Games opening ceremony] next year – it’ s a lot of pressure and it’ s a little bit nerve-racking, but I am very excited and I have always wanted this, so I am grateful.
“I have worked really hard and I am sure it will pay off next year. We train in a four-year-cycle that is focused on peaking for the Olympic Games. I will do my best and hopefully that will be enough to be the best swimmer in the world in all my events. I will swim to win.”
As it stands today, according to Rio2016.com, Le Clos plans on swimming the 100m and 200m butterfly events, as well as the 100m and 200m freestyle races at the 2016 Olympic Games.