Gold has Le Clos beaming

Chad le Clos (Gallo Images)
Chad le Clos (Gallo Images)

Doha - Chad le Clos says that winning the 200m men's freestyle at the FINA World Short Course Swimming Championships in Doha on Wednesday was one of the best swim medals he has ever won.

Le Clos won the first medal of the championships when he underlined his versatility with victory in the 200m freestyle ahead of Russian Danila Izotov and defending champion Ryan Lochte.

The butterfly specialist with world and Olympic titles but he is considering adding the freestyle to his repertoire.

He was never out of the top three in the final and from third at the 150m mark he stretched every sinew to win in 1:41.45, 0.22 secs ahead of Izotov - who was eighth at halfway.

Lochte only just squeezed into the final by 0.04secs in eighth but he was always in a medal position to take bronze in 1:42.09.

"That was great, one of the best swim medals I have ever won," purred Le Clos.

"It's a race I have wanted to win for a long time - on a world stage of course.

"At the World Cups I have never swum a 200 freestyle so it is my first one - I am really happy.

"It's short course, I want to be the best long course. I know my turns are really good so to chase these guys long course is going to be a different ball game but I'll take it away and work on it when I get back home."

In the night's other finals, Spaniard Mireia Belmonte upstaged the 'Iron Lady' Katinka Hosszu in claiming two gold medals - both in world record time.

The Netherlands' women's 4x200m freestyle squad also set a new world record in the final event of the night where other winners included Le Clos' in the 200m freestyle and the French men's 4x100m freestyle relay quartet.

All eyes had been on Hosszu after an impressive performances in the heats session at the Hamad Aquatic Centre but it was Belmonte who prevailed, her talent and pedigree underpinned by confidence drawn from experience.

First up was the 200m butterfly, Hosszu apparently in control before Belmonte accelerated in the second half of the race to cut her opponent's lead before claiming an ultimately emphatic victory in 1:59.61.

Belmonte -- who won two silver medals at the 2012 Olympics -- took 1.16secs off Liu Zige's previous record, set in the 2009 performance-enhancing suit era.

Hosszu was left 1.51 adrift although she still had the 400m individual medley to look forward to, having threatened to break her own world record in the heats.

However, Belmonte again reigned supreme.

More than two seconds behind after the backstroke leg, the 24-year-old did not panic.

Instead she gradually drew closer and closer over the breaststroke and with 100m to go she was ahead.

It was a lead Hosszu never came close to cutting, rather Belmonte enjoyed victory by more than three seconds in 4:19.86.

She has medals at all levels but by being the first woman to dip under two minutes in the butterfly and the four minute 20-second mark in the long medley, she became a pathfinder.

"I didn't expect two world records - it is like a dream today," she beamed.

"For me it was amazing.

"The first race was very good and I felt very quick but the second one was very hard because I was tired from the first."

Belmonte, who won three titles at the 2010 championships in Dubai, also pointed to the benefits of having competed in the World Cup series.

"This last month was very important preparation and I trained very well. And thanks to my coach Fred (Vergnoux): I think in the moment you have to be ready."

The Netherlands set a new world mark of 7:32.85 to lower China's 2010 world record in the women's 4x200m freestyle while France set a new championship mark of 3:03.78 in the men's 4x100m freestyle.

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