Chad le Clos shocked the swimming buffs by claiming the 200m freestyle silver medal to become the fourth South African to win three medals at the Olympic Games.
Adding the freestyle medal to the gold and silver he won in London 2012, Le Clos joined South Africa’s most decorated Olympians which include Penny Heyns, Roland Schoeman and Charles Winslow.
And he was defending his 200m butterfly title last night in Rio de Janeiro.
Le Clos says: “A medal to me is like a gold medal in the 200m free. I always race to win, silver is great but if we do the race I would have loved to have won it but next year we will win it.
“It is a huge honour, it is a gold and two silvers now, tomorrow hopefully if we can get another gold, that would be history.
“The best Olympian the continent has ever had so there is a lot riding [the race] and I will not take anyone for granted.”
Like in London four years ago, Cameron van der Burgh opened South Africa’s medal account when he claimed the 100m breaststroke silver medal the day before with Le Clos following in his footsteps.
Le Clos used the exact same tactics in the 200m freestyle semifinals from Sunday when he covered the first lap under world-record pace.
But instead of slowing down and finishing lower down the field, Le Clos kept his foot on the pedal, touching second in the final behind China’s Sun Yang for the country’s second silver in two days.
He touched the wall in a new continental record of 1:45.20, slashing 0.55s off Jean Basson’s seven-year-old record.
He out-touched Connor Dwyer by 0.03s to relegate the American swimmer to third place.
The Durbanite adds: “It was a crazy race, the tactic was definitely to go out hard, it is the first time I have gone out that hard in any race, usually I come from behind.
“But I felt that having the outside lane gave me the advantage, I just wanted to put it all on the line and have no regrets.”
In the process Le Clos became the first African swimmer to win a medal in this event.