Johannesburg - Olympic gold medallists Chad le Clos and Cameron van der Burgh relinquished their respective titles and had to be content with silver medals at the FINA World Long-course Championships in Kazan, Russia on Wednesday.
Le Clos, the pre-race favourite suffered a shock defeat to Hungary's Laszlo Cseh in his favourite 200m butterfly event.
It was his first defeat at a major championship since beating American swimming legend Michael Phelps at the 2012 London Olympic Games for the title in the same event.
Le Clos looked out of sorts since the start of the championships with his usual confident air slightly absent in the build-up to the final.
Cseh won the race with a time of 1:53.48 with Le Clos’ characteristic kick coming too late with the South African touching in 1:53.68 while Poland’s Jan Switkowski won bronze in 1:54.10.
“That is sport for you, I left it too late, the game plan was to go out hard and not to give him the lead back,” Le Clos said.
“I was supposed to touch first on each 50m, when he touched on the 100m with me maybe I got a bit of a fright because I thought I would be ahead.”
Le Clos was clearly disappointed with the defeat but he was confident it would only strengthen his resolve ahead of the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
“I firstly have to congratulate Laszlo, he is a great champion and a great friend of mine for many years, we trained together when we were younger,” Le Clos said.
“I was undefeated since London, so it is my first defeat since the Olympics, there is no easy way to take it, it is a tough pill to swallow. There is no pressure for me next year, I know I can win next year.”
Van der Burgh admitted it was a disappointing night for the duo as he also reluctantly surrendered his 50m breaststroke title to Briton Adam Peaty.
“It wasn’t South Africa’s night but we have quite a lot of work to do for the next Olympic Games so we will take silver and trade it for gold next year,” Van der Burgh said.
“We are still very proud and two silver medals for South Africa is nothing to be ashamed and sad about.”
The Olympic champion’s tussle with Peaty has been one of the highlights of the World Championships with the British youngster completing the rare 50m and 100m breaststroke double.
The 50m breaststroke was a repeat of the Monday’s 100m race where Van der Burgh had the lead only to see Peaty touch first by a fraction in a time of 26.51.
Van der Burgh followed 0.15 seconds behind him in 26.66 with Kevin Cordes of the United States bagging the bronze with 26.86.
In Tuesday’s heats the world record changed hands twice between Van der Burgh and Peaty as they continued their tit-for-tat battle.
Van der Burgh first improved on his 50m breaststroke world record by 0.05 seconds with 26.62 during the morning heats before Peaty went one better in the semis posting 26.42.
On Monday Peaty out-touched the South African by 0.07 seconds to win the 100m breaststroke title with Van der Burgh bagging the silver.
Van der Burgh will be swimming in the 200m breaststroke with Ayrton Sweeney on Thursday while Le Clos would turn his attention to the 100m butterfly on Friday to defend his title.