While American swimmer Tom Shields was in Atlanta at the U.S. Winter National Championships, becoming the first man to ever break 44 seconds in a 100 yard butterfly, South African Chad le Clos was swimming a 100 yard fly of his own in Connecticut.
Arriving in North America in anticipation of the 2016 Short Course World Swimming Championships, which will take place just across the border in Windsor, Canada, Le Clos and his brother Jordan landed at JFK Airport and drove to the Westport Weston Family YMCA to loosen up before making the final trip to Windsor.
Le Clos spent a few days training at the pool and as a thank you to the Water Rat Swim Team on Friday evening swam an exhibition 100 yard butterfly at the Strittmatter Family Aquatic Center – believed to be his first ever race in a yards pool.
In front of a full house, Le Clos clocked a 44.25 in the 100 yard fly, which at 5:15 Eastern Time when the swim happened would count as the third-fastest 100 yard fly ever swum (we’ve been unable to confirm if the swim was officiated or will be a recorded time).
Shortly thereafter, of course, American Tom Shields became the first-ever swimmer to go faster than 44 seconds in the 100 yard fly when he posted a 43.84 in Atlanta. That broke the old record of 44.01 done at last year’s NCAA Championships by Joseph Schooling. That swim relegated Le Clos’ record to just the 4th-fastest ever.
Le Clos is the current World Record holder in both the 100 and 200 flys in short course meters and a 6-time short course World Champion. While Shields’ time was almost half-a-second faster, remember the varying circumstances: Shields’ swim was done in a meet setting, Le Clos’ in an informal time trial setting. Also remember that Le Clos was dominant again in the World Cup circuit this year, winning every butterfly race – including several head-to-head matchups with Shields. While the difference from short course yards to short course meters isn’t as significant as the difference from short course yards to long course meters, the timing of turns and finishes is different. Whereas Shields’ experience in short course yards far outweighs Le Clos’, in short course meters Le Clos will have the home course advantage. Shields is one of the best swimmers in the world underwater, but the underwater maximum is at 15 meters in either a yards or a meters pool, and that extra 10%-or-so above the water should benefit the South African.
In either case, the pair of performances will build a lot of anticipation for the race in Windsor next week at a meet that could use a little drama without many of the world’s top swimming stars.
Below, check out the video evidence, courtesy of Wayne Ridden.
— Denise D Hotch (@yogadog5) December 3, 2016