Right on cue, Chad le Clos smashed into the wall to win South Africa’s first swimming gold medal at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games on Thursday.
In a plot twist, Ryan Coetzee, who spent the last few weeks training with Le Clos, bagged bronze to give the country two medals in the sprint event.
Le Clos hit the wall first in a time of 23.37 seconds, with Trinidad and Tobago’s Dylan Carter taking silver in 23.67 and Coetzee posting a new personal best of 23.73.
Le Clos’ record-breaking medal chase suffered a blow a few minutes later, however, when he finished seventh in the men’s 200m freestyle.
Tipped to be one of the favourites, Le Clos rocketed out of the blocks and led by a healthy margin over the first two lengths but ran out of steam to finish seventh in 1:47.20, two seconds slower than his national record.
“I’ve never won a 50m fly in the long course, so I am very chuffed, but I am a bit disappointed not getting onto the podium in the 200m freestyle,” Le Clos said.
Le Clos had more disappointment in his last race of the evening when the men’s 4x100m freestyle relay team finished in sixth place.
Swimming the second leg, Le Clos clocked the second fastest split of the race with a time of 47.97.
Meanwhile, US-based swimmer Coetzee said a medal was the furthest thing from his mind when he stepped onto the blocks for Thursday’s heats.
“I went 23 seconds in the morning and I went ‘Oh, ok let’s see if I can get a top five,” he said.
World Student Games silver medallist Tatjana Schoenmaker came painstakingly close to winning a surprise medal in the women’s 50m breaststroke.
She may have fallen short of the podium but still managed to shave 0.01 off Penny Heyns’ previous South African record set in 1999.
Schoenmaker finished fourth in the race, clocking 30.82 to miss out on a medal by 0.04.
“It was actually quite a nice race. I was just focusing on myself and not on the race, so getting that time is just unbelievable,” Schoenmaker said.
“The 200m breaststroke is obviously a bit further than the 50m but hopefully I can swim my best and get to my PB as well.”
Former world record holder Cameron van der Burgh finished second behind defending champion Adam Peaty of England to qualify for Saturday’s 100m breaststroke final.
Peaty was in a class of his own, touching first in a time of 58.59, with Van der Burgh posting a time of 59.74.
Van de Burgh’s teammate Michael Houlie clocked a new personal best of 1:01.47 to finish in sixth place but he missed out on the final.
“I am very happy. There is no sense in going out and giving it a big one now… I am looking forward to tomorrow’s final,” Van der Burgh said.
“I think the final will be faster for sure but it is not a world-record pool so it is all about racing.”
Erin Gallagher booked her place in the 50m freestyle final with a time of 25.03 seconds, while Emma Chelius just missed out on a place in the medal contest, finishing fourth in her heat in 25.89.
After reaching the 400m individual medley final, Ayrton Sweeney had to be content with fourth place as he touched the wall in a time of 4:17.79, three seconds slower than third place.