CHAD le Clos began his campaign to become Africa’s most decorated Olympian today.
Competing in three individual events, the 4x200m freestyle and the 4x100m medley relay, Le Clos will be looking to surpass Ethiopian distance runner Kenenisa Bekele with his three gold medals and one silver.
Armoured by a “bulletproof mind” the Durbanite is ready to renew his rivalry with American icon Michael Phelps in the pool for the first time since the 100m butterfly at the London 2012 Games where Phelps pipped the South African to the wall.
The stage is set for one of the epic battles of the Games as they meet each other of the rematch in the 200m butterfly.
Ahead of the 200m freestyle heats early this morning (3am), Chad said: “My mind is pretty much bulletproof, nothing would throw me off now but nothing has ever intimidated me.
“The 200m fly is probably more important than the 100m fly and the 200m free if I’m honest, I will take any medal that comes our way but I would rather win the 200m fly.
“I think it is something that has been blown out of proportion, Laszlo [Cseh] is in great shape, he swam a 52.9 in April or May which is pretty fast. It is faster than my time from London four years ago.”
Le Clos was the dominant butterfly swimmer since London and suffered a rare defeat at last year’s Fina World Championships when Cseh beat him in the 200m event.
The 24-year-old said the defeat was perhaps to his benefit as it kicked his Rio preparations into the next gear.
He adds: “I am just excited to race, last year was probably a good wake-up call and I am happy it happened, I’ve trained harder than I’ve ever have.
“I haven’t seen Phelps in four years and it will be the first time we will race since the 100m fly.”
Meanwhile, Cameron van der Burgh took on world record- holder Adam Peaty in the 6.05am final of the 100m breaststroke earlier today after Peaty smashed his own record with a time of 57.62secs in the semis.