Chad le Clos thrills S'pore crowd with world best time

SINGAPORE - Not even a thunderstorm could stop the fireworks in the pool as two world records were broken on the first night of the 2013 Fina World Cup (short course) at the Singapore Sports School yesterday.

And the biggest star on stage was South Africa's Chad le Clos, who thrilled an estimated 1,000 fans as he went under his own world-record time in the 200m butterfly final.

Just like he said he would in an interview with The New Paper 24 hours earlier.

The Australian mixed quartet also broke their own world mark in the 4x50m medley relay to end the action on Day One in spectacular fashion, but Olympic champion le Clos was the biggest hit in a pool which will now surely rank as one of his favourites, after his exploits here at the inaugural Youth Olympic Games in 2010.

His habit is well documented - le Clos always sneaks a peek to check where his rivals are during a race.

Last night, the 21-year-old predictably stole a glance as he stormed home in the final straight, but there was no one in sight.

His nearest rival, Poland's Pawel Korzeniowski, was five seconds and almost five body lengths behind.

Le Clos touched home in a new worldrecord time of 1min 48.56sec, beating his own record set in Eindhoven three months ago by 0.48s.

Korzeniowski (1:53.59) collected silver and Yuki Kobori of Japan the bronze (1:55.39).

After picking up a US$10,000 ($12,400) cheque for his world record, he laughed and told TNP: "Youngsters shouldn't copy me. It's a bad habit but I have always done it."

Secret weapons

Beaming brightly as he took more than 10 minutes to sign autographs for starstruck fans, he revealed his secret weapons - a green mini figurine lucky charm given by his 15-year-old brother Jordan, and an electronic dance music track specially mixed by a friend.

"It's all about blocking out everything else - what makes me nervous and scared - and making me pumped up," he said, about the music in his headphones just before the start of every race.

Le Clos hinted at his potential when he won five medals, including the 200m individual medley gold, at the YOG in 2010.

He paid tribute to the Lion City, flashing a megawatt smile and saying, "Well, Singapore just brings out the best in me."

Le Clos, who also won the 50m fly last night in 22.24s, then declared: "Now I'm going to try to break Michael Phelps' long-course world record (1:51.51 in the 200m fly).

"Obviously it's a difficult time to beat but, even if I fail, I'm still going to try."

The Australians gave the fans a thrilling finish with their own record-breaking swim in the final race of yesterday's programme.

The mixed relay quartet of Robert Hurley, Christian Sprenger, Alicia Coutts and Cate Campbell had already set a world record in the morning heats with a time of 1:39.08, 0.46s faster than the old mark set by the French last month in Doha.

Incredibly, they brought it down by more than a second, posting 1:38.02 to win gold in the final.

Said Sprenger: "We can still go faster because we have four great athletes who work well together. I held back a little just now, and we will continue to try to chip away at our record."

Russia finished second (1:40.84), with Brazil third (1:41.79).

Catch the final day of action at the Sports School today. Morning heats begin at 9am, with the finals at 5.30pm.

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