Chad le Clos Crowned WORLD Champion
Chad le Clos Crowned WORLD Champion. Photo: FB / Chad le Clos

An emotional Chad le Clos claimed a long-awaited gold medal in the 200m butterfly at the World Short Course Championships in Melbourne, Australia, on Thursday. The former Olympic champion raced like he did at the start of his international career, hanging back as American Trenton Julian burned himself out swimming at world-record pace and then pouncing in the final 50m to win in a new lifetime best – and African record time of 1:48.27. That was almost a full second ahead of second-placed Daiya Seto of Japan.

Le Clos burst into tears at the realisation that he’d finally got his hands back on the title he last won in 2016.

Chad le Clos Crowned WORLD Champion
Chad le Clos after winning his race in Melbourne today. Photo: Twitter video screenshot – WATCH BELOW

The 30-year-old has had a tough few years, struggling with depression and a drop in form, but showed he is well and truly on the comeback trail after a switch in coaches.

FINA said Le Clos’ resurgent return to winning world titles stood out today, as did his emotional reaction afterwards. “To be a world champion is like a dream come true again,” the South African said. “I have been waiting so long for this moment.”

Chad le Clos’ dad Bert cheers him on from the stadium. Photo: Twitter video screenshot. WATCH BELOW

His father Bert le Clos was so excited he couldn’t stay seated, shouting from the sidelines as Chad closed in on the victory, in a scene that wouldn’t look out of place in a beautiful tear-jerker movie.

WATCH Chad’s father Bert le Clos watching his son become World Champion again

On social media, Chad said:

“Very hard to describe what this “World Title “means to me ❤️ One year ago I was in a very dark place and rock bottom, today I am world champion, never give up never give in and always believe in yourself. Thank you to my coach @dlpgmbh (Dirk Lange) thank you to my family, my sponsors and a massive thank you to everyone who has supported me ❤️ This is only the beginning ? #Chad2.0 #worldchmapion #melbourne”

Chad finished in a 13.82 last 25m to take the win in 1:48.27. The South African adds to his medal tally, bringing him that much closer to the all-time individual medal mark. Ryan Lochte tops the list with 24 podiums; Le Clos now has 19, said World Aquatics.

“This is a big win for me. I’ve taken so many losses in the last two years. A lot of people doubted me, the swimming world doubted me, but the king is back,” said an elated Le Clos afterwards.

“I had a change of mindset, I was fighting too much with myself and trying desperate-man swimming… a big thank you to my coach, Dirk Lange, for all the changes he’s made in the last 10 weeks.

“Just like we said in Gladiator – we smelt that dirt, we came out prepared for war,” added Le Clos, who will be back in the pool on Saturday for the 100m butterfly.

Photo: TeamSA
Photo: FB / Chad le Clos

Meanwhile, Lara van Niekerk featured in the 100m breaststroke final. The 19-year-old, who is making a return to competition after foot surgery, couldn’t produce the form she had in the heats, however, and finished in fifth place in 1:04.12. Gold went to American Lilly King in 1:02.67.

Rebecca Meder booked a place in the 100m individual medley final in impressive fashion. The 20-year-old from Durban broke multiple Olympic medallist Kirsty Coventry’s African record in the morning heats – finishing in a time of 59.38. She then went even quicker in the evening semifinal, finishing third in another record time of 58.98 and qualifying fifth fastest for Friday’s final.

“I’m very happy. I think I’ve been chasing that time for a while now… so I’m really, really happy with that time,” said Meder.

Meanwhile, Pieter Coetzé ensured he progressed to the final of the 50m backstroke. The 18-year-old from Pretoria was sixth at the turn in his semifinal but stormed back to finish second in 22.86, to qualify fourth fastest for Friday’s final. Australian Isaac Cooper was the fastest qualifier in a world junior record time of 22.52.

After claiming 200m individual medley gold on Tuesday, Matt Sates was far from his best in the 400m freestyle heats. His time of 3:41.05 saw the 19-year-old finishing 12th overall and missing out on a place in the evening final. It was a performance well off the 3:36.30 he swam during the World Cup series event in Berlin just a couple of months ago.

Earlier in the day, the women’s 4x50m freestyle relay team of Caitlin de Lange, Meder, Emily Visagie and Milla Drakopoulos were in record-breaking form, setting a new continental mark of 1:40.80 to finish 11th overall. De Lange’s opening leg of 24.33 seconds was also a new African record, the 18-year-old beating Egyptian Farida Ousman’s previous mark of 24.37.

In other action, Dakota Tucker finished 17th overall in the 200m butterfly heats in 2:11.34, Drakopoulos was 31st overall in the heats of the 50m backstroke in 28.08 and Simon Haddon was 29th in the 100m individual medley in 54.79.

The men’s 4x50m freestyle relay team of Clayton Jimmie, Haddon, Kian Keylock and Coetzé finished 12th overall in 1:29.27.

Swimming action continues on Friday with the championships coming to an end on Sunday, 18 December.

Sources: TeamSA, World Aquatics, Chad le Clos