Le Clos wins gold in Durban
Johannesburg - Medal prospect Chad le Clos successfully completed the second part of his attempt to swim in four races at the London Olympics when he won the 200 metres butterfly gold at the SA National Swimming Championships and Olympic Trials in Durban on Thursday night.
The 20-year-old recorded a time of one minute, 56.17 seconds, narrowly inside the 1:56.86 qualifying time, as he edged out a disappointing Sebastien Rousseau (1:57.88) and Dylan Bosch (1:59.57).
The pair are among 12 swimmers who have already set A-standard times for the Games, but need to do it again at the week-long meet.
The qualifying criteria requires all the country's Olympic hopefuls to dip below the standard twice during a 10-month period, including once this week.
Le Clos, who was quicker in his semi-final, had already booked his ticket to the Games after winning the 400m Individual Medley on Monday.
"It’s a huge honour to get another qualifying time, but to be honest I’m a little bit disappointed with the time," sad the KwaZulu-Natal swimmer, who is also bidding to qualify in the 100m butterfly and 200m IM.
"I was hoping I could at least match my semi-final time, but I’m halfway there now and I’m just happy with what I’ve done until now."
Le Clos admitted to being surprised by the time produced by Rousseau, who can still qualify for the Olympics via the 200m IM.
"It’s unfortunate because I really thought he would do it," Le Clos said. "He took it out really hard with me and it’s heartbreaking for anyone after giving your all."
One other A-standard time was breached when Gideon Louw clocked 48.74 to win his 100m freestyle semi-final.
The United States-based swimmer, who has a qualifying time in the 50m freestyle but not in the 100m, was the fastest of all the qualifiers as he ended ahead of Darian Townsend (49.10) and Graeme Moore (49.53), the only one of the three to have previously met the Olympic mark.
Veteran Olympic medallist Roland Schoeman came fifth with 49.77, while Jean Basson (50.61) also qualified to set up what is likely to be a hotly contested final on Sunday.
"It’s great to have done the time," Louw said. "You train practically for four years to get here and it’s just a great relief to have done the time.
"I guess the hard work’s paid off."
In the only other men’s event on Thursday night, Neil Versfeld was fastest in the 200m breaststroke semi-finals, winning his heat in 2:12.35 ahead of Rory Buck (2:17.55).
The other heat was won by Sydney 2000 silver medallist Terence Parkin (2:18.35) as he continues his comeback attempt.
On the women’s side, there was despair for Karin Prinsloo in the 200m freestyle final after she swam a 1:59.53 to win the title, but ended over a second outside the A-standard time of 1:58.33.
The Northern Tigers' swimmer, who has a qualifying time in the 200m backstroke, pushed hard at the start, but seemed to tire towards the end.
In the 200m IM final, Kathryn Meaklim, another athlete who has sealed her place in London via the 400m IM, claimed gold, but also missed out on qualifying for the event on her way to a 2:13.64.
Meaklim did drop inside the required 2:13.36 time in her semi-final.
The experienced Mandy Loots was the fastest qualifier in the 200m butterfly semi-finals, which she won in 2:13.05.