A young man knows his time has come, he appreciates he has become uncomfortably famous, when a stranger requests an autograph in a toilet. "Are you the swimmer?" a man asks in a South African club and Chad le Clos grins and said yes.
Hygiene be damned, he must have signed. And shaken hands. Because on Monday he shook everyone's. First the photographer's. Then the cameraman's. He's normal, he's nice. Till he puts on goggles and tilts on the blocks and dives over your dream.
Le Clos swims the butterfly, which is a cruelly misnamed stroke. Butterflies are gentle, they flutter and float; butterfly swimmers are violent and rise out of the water like prehistoric beasts. Which is what le Clos resembled when he chased down Michael Phelps at the London Olympics. He worshipped Phelps and yet he planned his demise. Only in sport is humiliating your hero in public a cherished proof of talent.
Le Clos is having the time of his life. He can't walk unmolested down South African streets. He's won sporting awards ahead of rugby players and cricketers, the reigning deities of his athletic nation. "I can't lie, it's cool," he grins. He's turned swimming into the fourth-most popular sport in his nation. But he didn't change his nation because he won Olympic gold but because of how he won.
Over 300 gold medals were awarded in London, each one the same size yet metaphorically of a different weight. Some athletes win, others stand out. All have talent, some have superior timing.
You win a race by metres (Usain Bolt), finish faster than a man (Ye Shiwen) or do a Mobot (Mo Farah) and you stand out. It's what le Clos does, he writes not a statistic but a story. He's 0.58 seconds behind Phelps at the 150m turn in the 200m butterfly and Phelps doesn't lose when he's 0.58 ahead. Except Phelps doesn't know le Clos is feeling "pumped up, something I never felt before. One of those rushes that comes once every four years".