Gold Coast - Chad le Clos booked his place at the top table of men’s 100-metre freestyle sprinting with a brilliant silver medal at the Commonwealth Games on Australia’s Gold Coast.
The 48.15 seconds also happens to be the fastest he has ever swum the race.
It came amidst another profitable few hours in the pool on Sunday night as 200m breaststroke gold medallist, Tatjana Schoenmaker, continued her remarkable form at these Games when she qualified quickest for Monday night’s final, following up on her morning heats swim of 1:07.69 with a 1:06.65 in the semis.
That was the second fastest time ever by a South African female, only 0.13 seconds behind the great Penny Heyns’ African record at the 1999 Pan Pacs Championships in Sydney.
‘I am going to try go for it [the record] in the final,’ said the 20-year-old. ‘If it happens then it happens and if not then it’s not meant to be. But, I’m feeling really good and I’m very happy, I wanted to go under 1:07, around a mid to high 1:06. I’m just concentrating on my own race and not worrying about anyone around me,’ she said.
A medal beckons on Monday night. Dare we dream of gold? Absolutely!
Elsewhere, Cameron van der Burgh led a three-man charge into the 50m breaststroke final by clocking 26.95, which was second quickest going into the final behind England’s Adam Peaty, but Bishops matriculant Michael Houlie also produced the goods when it mattered and his 27.64 qualified him as the fifth fastest and Brad Tandy’s 27.99 sees him into the final as eighth quickest.
And then there is Erin Gallagher. The 19-year-old has long been spoken about as a potential star and here on the Gold Coast she is putting it all together. She followed up a fifth-place finish in the 50m freestyle final by breaking the African record in the 100m freestyle semi-final. Karin Prinsloo’s 54.48 had stood since 2014 but Gallagher erased that mark and replaced it with her own 54.38, which was seventh fastest overall.
And, of course, Le Clos himself was back in the water where he was all smiles after qualifying comfortably for the 100m butterfly final, not concerned about letting James Guy get to the wall first in 52.34. On Monday night he’ll have his game face on as he attempts to make it a clean sweep of all three butterfly events.
Australians regard the men’s 100m freestyle as something of their personal property and at the 2014 Games in Glasgow, they recorded a clean sweep of the medals. And heading into the final here they were quick to remind everyone within earshot that they had produced nine of the last 12 Commonwealth Games champions.
Here they had three sprinters in the final but they only could finish second (in a tie for silver with Le Clos), fourth and sixth. Victory went to the 20-year-old Scotsman Duncan Scott, who cut through the water later to deny Le Clos a famous victory in the final few strokes, touching the wall in 48.02.
Behind him were Le Clos in lane five and Aussie Kyle Chalmers in lane three, with both being credited with 48.15. It was the second time in a major championship that Le Clos had shared silver, following that dramatic three-way tie in the 100m butterfly final at the Rio Olympics.
‘It was that close… I could [see] him coming from behind and I thought, “please no, please no”. I swam a great race and I think I just over-extended too much at the end. It happens sometimes when you fight too much,” said Le Clos, who was claiming his third medal of the Games, to go along with two golds in the 50m and 200m butterfly. And the 100m butterfly is up for grabs on Monday.
‘This is the race that I wanted,’ Le Clos said. ‘It’s my best time [beating the 48.16 he swam at the 2015 Fina World Cup in Moscow] and I can’t complain about that. I knew it would be hard. I said before that the final had the fastest ever guy in textile [Cameron McEvoy], the Olympic champion [Chalmers] and it was here in the Aussies’ backyard in front of an amazing home crowd for them.
‘I’d wish we could do it again. I’d love to again. But fair play to Duncan. Huge props to him.’
The South African had reacted quickly off the blocks and had the second fastest reaction time (0.62) and reached the 50m turn in second with 22.86, as McEvoy lead with 22.83. At this stage Scott was sixth and Chalmers seventh, both with plenty to make up. A good turn saw Le Clos hit the front and that’s where it looked as if he would stay, holding off all challengers with 20 metres remaining.
That’s when Scott erupted into action and it came down to the last two strokes before all eyes in the 12,500 open-air arena turned to the giant scoreboard, bright against the dark night sky to reveal that it was indeed Scott with gold, Le Clos and Chalmers with the silver.
Perhaps it’s not the right time to remind Australia that they haven’t had much success in the event in their own pool. In the 2006 Games in Melbourne, England’s Simon Burnett won gold, chased home by South African pair Ryk Neethling and Roland Schoeman and now on the Gold Coast both Scott and Le Clos have rained on their celebration parade.
Le Clos’s silver helped take Team SA’s medal tally to nine, with Colleen Piketh claiming bronze in women’s singles bowls to get in on the act. Team SA are now seventh on the medal table at this stage, but with the promise of more gold around the corner.
Read this story on at Team SA, the dedicated website of the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC)