Chad le Clos kept the SA flag flying with a podium performance on the opening day of the World Short Course Championships in Abu Dhabi on Thursday.
The former Olympic champion who is still recovering from a knee injury said before the start of the event, he was hoping to “nick a little bronze” and he did just that, finishing third behind Italy’s Alberto Razzetti in the 200m butterfly.
After a great start, Le Clos led through the first 50m but had dropped out of the top three by the turn at 100m and at 150m. He edged ahead in the final 50m though to out-touch American Trenton Julian for the bronze.
Razzetti took the gold in 1:49.06, with Switzerland’s Noe Ponti second in 1:49.81, while Le Clos took the bronze in 1:49.84. That took the South African stalwarts medal total at the World Short Course Championships to an incredible 16, dating back to his first in 2010.
Meanwhile, Razzetti was thrilled with the result. “It’s incredible, I’m speechless, it’s a great result, the time is incredible,” said the Italian, who recently claimed the European short course title in the 200m butterfly in national record time. “I was feeling so good today so I tried until the end and I made it,” added the 22-year-old who also added 200m individual medley bronze to his haul later in the evening.
Le Clos had qualified second fastest for the 200m butterfly final after winning his morning heat in 1:50.63. He’s been entered in both the 200m freestyle and 100m butterfly heats on Friday morning.
The evening’s proceedings were highlighted by a world record performance, Siobhán Haughey claiming Hong Kong’s first ever swimming world title in the 200m freestyle in a blisteringly quick time of 1:50.31. Along with the gold, the Olympic silver medallist also collected the US$50,000 cheque for breaking a world record.
Earlier in the day, another member of South Africa’s small team in Abu Dhabi, Michaela Pulford, finished ninth in her 200m freestyle heat in 2:03.67. That meant she was 34th overall and did not progress to the evening final. The 17-year-old will be back in action in the 800m freestyle heats on Friday.