Had Chad le Clos swum this fast in Rio, he would have gotten the better of Michael Phelps.
Le Clos, the shadow-boxing South African who drummed up a rivalry with Phelps the last Olympic cycle, recorded his fastest 200m butterfly since upsetting Phelps at London 2012 to win the world title Wednesday.
“I had a very difficult year last year, as you guys know, I lost to my great friend and idol Michael Phelps,” Le Clos said on NBCSN before tearing up in the medal ceremony. “I said last year, judge me by how I respond in adversity, and I proved it tonight.”
Le Clos clocked 1:53.33 in Budapest, which was .73 faster than he went in Rio, where he faded to fourth place while infamously peeking a lane over at Phelps in the last 50 meters.
Phelps, by the way, went .03 slower in Rio than Le Clos went Wednesday. That Olympic defeat served as motivation for Le Clos, who at 25 appears to have more gold medals in front of him.
“I’ve never been so hungry to be successful after last year,” said Le Clos, who rocketed out to a 1.11-second lead in the first 100 meters and hung on in the last 50. “So I must thank Michael Phelps for that.”
Le Clos will take on Rio Olympic champion Joseph Schooling and rising American Caeleb Dressel in the 100m butterfly. Heats and semis are Friday, with the final Saturday as Le Clos eyes a third straight world title in that event.
Men’s 200m Butterfly Results
Gold: Chad le Clos (RSA) — 1:53.33
Silver: Laszlo Cseh (HUN) — 1:53.72
Bronze: Daiya Seto (JPN) — 1:54.21
4. Tamas Kenderesi (HUN) — 1:54.73
5. Jack Conger (USA) — 1:54.88
6. Masato Sakai (JPN) — 1:55.04
7. Viktor Bromer (DEN) — 1:55.30
8. Antani Ivanov (BUL) — 1:55.98
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