Tokyo Olympics

'Nervous' Le Clos vows to get faster after qualifying scare: 'I'm still very confident'

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South African swimmer Chad le Clos
South African swimmer Chad le Clos
Clive Rose/Getty Images

Olympic legend Chad le Clos says he was very nervous after his 200m butterfly semi-final heat at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre on Monday.

Swimming in lane five, Le Clos finished fifth in the heat, touching the wall in a time of 1:55.96 - 2.38 seconds behind world record holder Kristof Milak of Hungary (1:53.58).

Le Clos, who won gold in the 200m butterfly at the 2012 Olympic Games, was in a panic after touching the wall as he qualified 16th fast - the Top 16 progress to the semi-finals.

"I was very nervous there, when I touched the wall and saw 1:55.96, I was like 'Oh my God, it's over'. Just happy to get there in the end," said Le Clos.

"I felt really good, relaxed. I was going to go with them and take a chill in the second half and touch third or second.

"I thought I was in the mix that I would finish quite well. I was like 'please, please, please'.

"I just got to bring a bit of game tomorrow and get in the final and see what happens there."

A small contingent of South African swimmers came out to support Le Clos and fellow countryman Ethan du Preez in the same heat. Du Preez finished last in his Olympic debut with a time of 1:58.50.

Le Clos says he was a bit red-faced with his 16th qualifying spot but is confident he'll make the semi-finals.

"I'm confident in the semis and finals. It's been a tough year, dealing with things, but I feel good, I'm still very confident.

"I'm lucky, I feel a bit embarrassed when I saw all the support and how guys came out and I finished 16th. But it's okay, I'll come back sweet tomorrow. Just give me a lane in the final and see what happens."

Le Clos will compete in the 200m butterfly semi-finals on Tuesday at 04:35 SA time.

*Lynn Butler is in Tokyo covering the Olympic Games for Sport24

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