Gold Coast - South Africa's Chad le Clos said on Thursday he would rather come second in the Commonwealth Games 50m butterfly after gold medal favourite Ben Proud was disqualified for a false start.
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Proud dominated Le Clos in their heat and clocked what would have been a Games record 22:84 seconds, but England's defending champion was adjudged to have moved early on the blocks.
It left Le Clos as the fastest swimmer in the morning's prelims in Gold Coast with a time of 23.53. But the four-time world champion insisted he would prefer to line up against Proud than go for gold without him.
"Absolutely, I'd rather come second - straight up," Le Clos said.
"I'd rather come second to somebody that deserves to win, but we'll see what happens."
"I didn't see him flinch at all," added Le Clos, who is contesting seven events in Australia as he bids to become the most successful athlete in Commonwealth Games history.
"No one likes to see that. As you can see he's clearly the best 50m fly swimmer in the world. Hopefully they can overturn that, but it is what it is. Whether he's there or not, I'm going to swim to win."
The England team lodged an appeal but Proud, whose illegal swim was
just 0.4 seconds short of a world record, was ultimately not reinstated
for Thursday's semi-finals.
"Whilst this is incredibly disappointing for Ben... we are all
looking to move on," England swim team leader Grant Robins said in a
"Ben will now move his focus on to the 50m freestyle on Monday and on
the 17 English swimmers who are in the semis and finals tonight."
Le Clos, who shot to fame at the 2012 London Olympics by stunning swimming legend Michael Phelps in the 200m butterfly, is six Commonwealth Games medals behind shooters Mick Gault and Philip Adams, who lead the way with 18.
"I didn't think I'd be first because I was so far behind," Le Clos said after trailing Proud home in his heat.
"I think it's a season's best and close to my best time," added the 25-year-old.
"I'm not putting any pressure on myself for the 50m because I'm not really a 50m guy. But it's a good sign for the 100m and 200m for sure."
A double world champion in both the 100m and 200m butterfly, Le Clos left the 2016 Rio Olympics with two silver medals after his parents were diagnosed with cancer before the Games.
The South African pin-up is contesting the 50m, 100m and 200m butterfly and 100m and 200m freestyle, plus two relays in Gold Coast's outdoor pool.
Le Clos warned he will swim even quicker in Friday's final, once he shaves off his designer stubble.
"I still need to shave down and hopefully go faster," he said.
"I'll shave for tomorrow."