Le Clos balances butterflies

JOHANNESBURG - Swimming sensation Chad le Clos admits his new-found status as the world's leading butterfly swimmer has come with its fair share of nerves ahead of the Fina World Swimming Championships in Barcelona.

"I am a little bit nervous -- it is a bit different having a target on my back, and knowing that makes it is a little more stressful than usual," Le Clos said.

"But I am not going to change my preparations before the race for anything because I always prepare in the same way for every race.

"I swim my best and I always try and win, so maybe beforehand I will feel the pressure, but half-an-hour before the race it will be like a normal race to me."

Le Clos shot to international fame at last year's London Olympic Games when he unseated legend Michael Phelps in the men's 200m butterfly final and finished joint-second behind him in the 100m butterfly event.

Phelps has since retired from the sport which has left an expectation that Le Clos is now the man to beat in butterfly.

Twenty-one year-old Le Clos said he went into a slight lull following the euphoria of the Olympics, but he had rekindled his hunger for swimming glory.

"I am more excited now than for any other meet since the Olympics. I went to the world short course champs afterwards but, having done so much before that, I wasn't mentally prepared for it," he said.

"I was tired and I just wasn't as excited as I am now."

Coincidentally, Le Clos could be swimming in the 200m butterfly final in Barcelona a year to the day after he famously beat Phelps in the same event at the Games.

Le Clos will be competing in the 50, 100 and 200m butterfly and would make history if he were to claim gold in each of these events.

However, he did not expect to achieve this feat, anticipating an uphill battle in the 50m butterfly where he would go head-to-head with veteran Olympian Roland Schoeman.

"Realistically I don't have a chance at gold in the 50m butterfly and winning all three events has never been done before," he said.

"I would like to make the final in the 50m even if I only get eighth place - that would still be good."

Le Clos made it clear he would be going to the global showpiece with victory in mind in his two specialist events.

"I want to win that gold medal and the 100m is also going to be an important race for me," Le Clos said.

"The 200m has been a bit shaky this year, while the 100m has actually been better for me. I've done a 51-seconds three times this season which is good."

While he was not completely satisfied with his form in the 200m, he said it was not a concern.

"I need to be in shape and I am not going to be scared of anybody but, at the same time, I know there are guys out there who want to beat me."

- AFP

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