Chad le Clos and Michael Phelps (Getty)
Rio de Janeiro - Chad le Clos, beaten and bruised after his fourth-place finish in the 200m butterfly, has asked Michael Phelps to keep swimming after the Rio 2016 Olympics ends.
While Le Clos finished outside of the medals in his signature event on Tuesday, Phelps marched on to win his 20th Olympic gold (he has since made it 21) and take back the title he lost to Le Clos at London 2012.
Le Clos, gutted after the race, later described that performance as the worst of his career.
The rivalry between Le Clos and Phelps had turned a little nasty in the build-up to the race, especially when Le Clos's pre-swim warm-up in the semi-finals had rubbed Phelps up the wrong way.
But, despite all that, Le Clos is desperate to see Phelps swim again and take him on in the 200m butterfly one more time.
"I’m not the kind of guy that accepts defeat. This is not the end of my 200 butterfly career, if anybody thinks that," Le Clos said.
"I really hope that he’ll swim it again. If he can hang on for another year I’d appreciate it so much.
"It’s up to him. He’s the greatest of all time … he can do whatever he wants to do."
Le Clos added that he had never feared Phelps and that he still doesn't now.
"From my side … maybe that’s the reason that I was able to beat him (London 2012), because I have never feared anybody," he said.
"I have the utmost respect for him. He will always be my idol in many ways but he’s still in good shape … I’m sure he can continue."
Phelps said in his post-swim press conference on Tuesday night (Wednesday morning, SA time) that he would not be swimming the 200m butterfly again.
Le Clos and Phelps are likely to meet again at Rio 2016 in the 100m butterfly. That race takes place on Friday night (Saturday morning, SA time) with the semi-final on Thursday night (Friday morning, SA time).
Lloyd Burnard is Sport24's correspondent in Rio de Janeiro for the duration of the 2016 Olympics ...