It was one for the history books when the South African swimming team yesterday won three medals, two gold and one bronze, within twenty minutes, at the 15th World Swimming Championships.
Chad le Clos got it all started in the 200m butterfly, the event in which he beat the American Michael Phelps at the London Olympics.
In true Le Clos style he started well and kept a pace, but was watching what his opponents were doing. In the last few metres he put his head down and secured gold in 1:54.32 – nowhere near the time of 1:52.96 he swam last year at the Olympics.
“I was worried as I saw the photographer getting ready, taking shots of lane eight and I thought that is the winner so I had to take a look where the other swimmers were. I have always done that and my coach is always annoyed about me doing that.”
He said it was wonderful to be World Champion and Olympic champion.
“I was worried that I might not achieve it, but it is great to win at the World Championships as well. It is exactly almost the same time as when I won gold in the event last year at the Olympic Games,” said a smiling Le Clos.
Next up was Cameron van der Burgh and Giulio Zorzi in the 50m breaststroke.
The world record holder in the event did not disappoint as he touched first in 26.77, with fellow South African Zorzi winning bronze in 27.04.
“This is surely the happiest day of my life winning a medal at a world championship. I won gold at the Student Games, but it did not come close to this. I know Cameron so well as we train together. Tonight I am celebrating with my cousins from Italy who came out to watch me swim,” said an elated Zorzi afterwards.
Van der Burgh was very happy with his performance and said he had suffered from sinus problems that started the day before.
“I touched and saw that I was first and was happy, but to look across and see Giulio going crazy and he is in third place – that was one of the proudest moments of my life,” said Van der Burgh.
“We’ve grown up together since we were 10 years old and we have always been mates, (so) to finally be on the same podium singing the anthem together is one of the most amazing experiences of my life,” said Van der Burgh.
In the morning heats other South Africans were not so lucky.
Jessica Ashley-Cooper (25th, 50m backstroke in 29.08), Leith Shankland (34th, 100m freestyle in 50.21) and Michael Meyer (26th, 200m individual medley in 2:01.96) all failed to qualify for the semifinals.
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