Dubai, world s/c championships, day 5 finals:
In a thrilling hunt for gold in the closing 10m of a final that Wu Peng (CHN) had dominated until the last length, Chad Le Clos delivered an historic gold for South Africa in 1:51.56 at the helm of five men within 0.36sec of each other. In the scramble, the silver went to Kaio Almeida (BRA), in 1:51.61, the bronze to Olympic silver medallist Laszlo Cseh (HUN), in 1:51.67, leaving Chris Wrtight (AUS) locked out on 1:51.85 and Wu nursing what might have been in 1:51.92.
He had turned 0.08sec ahead of world record pace at the 100m mark - and paid the price when pressure and pain came calling.
"I'm delighted to win the gold," said Le Clos, coached by Graham Hill. The champion added graciously: "To be honest I think I was lucky in the touch. I'd hoped for a medal but I've surprised myself, I can't believe it. I watched the replay and it was a really close race."
At some stage he had had no idea that had was in such close contention for gold. "I could not believe it. I was quite surprised as I thought I was way behind. I saw the replay and I was really lucky with my touch as it was a very tight race," he said. "I don't think that it has sunk in yet, perhaps when I get my medal and after I have spoken to my dad it will feel real."
It sank in a little on the podium, Le Clos proud as punch and with tear in his eye as the South African anthem rang out.
History in the making:
World s/c Podiums
Most world titles in this event:
Records (TB = best ever in a textile suit)
Most world records in this event (since specific 25m records began in 1991): 4
All-time textile rankings top 5:
From the archive:
The holder of the last world record over 200m in what would become known as a short-course pool (25 yards in this case) before FINA's May 1, 1957 ruling that only efforts in 50m pools could count as official global standards, was William Albert Yorzyk (USA). He clocked 2:16.7 on April 14, 1956 in Winchendon on his way to becoming the first Olympic butterfly champions in 1956, in the wake of FINA’s 1952 decision to split breaststroke and butterfly into two distinct strokes. At 17, Yorzyk took up swimming at Springfield College. By the time he arrived in Melbourne his best time in a 50m pool was also a world best, at 2:19.9. In the first heat at the Olympics, Yorzyk clocked 2:18.6, the first Olympic record in the event but not one that FINA counted as its first world record under retrospective measures that it applied to David Theile (AUS), champion in the 100m backstroke in Melbourne.
From May 1, 1957, FINA declared, only swims in a 50-metre pool would count for world-record status. Theile’s 1:02.2 in the 100m backstroke on December 12 was counted, retrospectively, as the first world record of the new era but Yoryk’s standard was not, on the basis that he already held the record, albeit in a 25m pool. In the final, Takashi Ishimoto (JPN) turned first at the half-way mark, in 1:05.6 but by 125m it was clear that the American had paced himself much better and as the Japanese challenger started to pay the price of his early speed, Yoryk sensed sporting immortality and went on to become a pioneer champion in 2:19.3. His winning margin, of 4.5sec over Ishimoto, who kept European champion Gyorgy Tumpek (HUN) at bay by 0.1sec, remains the biggest ever in the event. In fourth was Jack Nelson (USA), the future head coach to the USA and a swimmer who had learned butterfly in the year leading up to Melbourne, 1956. A passion was born. Nelson would later say: “I guess you could say that butterfly, coming along as it did, changed my life.”
Yorzyk later served as doctor to the US Embassy in Tokyo and to the USA swimming team. He put his success in water and medicine down to his coach, mentor and “second father”, Charles E. Silvia. In 1984, Yorzyk, aged 57, swam 2:11.0 over 200yd butterfly, which is about his 1956 speed.