RIO DE JANEIRO – Swimmer Chad Le Clos bagged South Africa’s second medal at the Rio Olympic Games when he won silver in the men’s 200m freestyle on Monday.
Le Clos’s medal followed that of fellow swimmer Cameron van der Burgh who won silver in the men’s 100m breaststroke on Sunday.
China’s Sun Yang thundered to Olympic gold when he beat Le Clos to banish his inner demons after a stinging loss at the weekend.
The talismanic Chinese giant bounced back from losing his 400m title to Australian Mack Horton by reeling in fast-starting Le Clos to become the first man to win three of the five Olympic freestyle titles.
“I’ve won gold medals in the 400 and 1,500m and the only thing missing was the 200,” Sun told AFP, refusing to gloat following a war of words triggered by Horton’s criticism of his doping record.
“Look, what I can say is that it was a real pity I couldn’t defend my 400m title,” he added.
“I admit I didn’t pay enough attention to detail and I paid for it. I don’t see this gold as revenge for the Horton stuff. It’s a valuable lesson to learn as I try to win it back at next year’s world championships.”
Le Clos went out in explosive fashion and was still leading at the final turn before Sun mowed him down over the final 50m to win in one minute, 44,65 seconds.
It was Sun’s third Olympic gold medal after winning the 400 and 1,500m titles in London four years ago.
Le Clos, who is set for a showdown with Michael Phelps in Tuesday’s 200m butterfly final, took silver in 1:45.20 and American Conor Dwyer bronze in 1:45.23.
Sun’s run-in with Horton sparked a diplomatic incident after the Australian sniffed: “I don’t have time for drug cheats.”
The Chinese, who has frequently courted controversy since shooting to fame in London, secretly served a three-month drugs suspension for testing positive for the banned stimulant trimetazidine in 2014.
— South African Gov (@GovernmentZA) August 9, 2016
He claimed it was for a heart condition but Horton stood by his comments after stripping Sun of his 400m title. That prompted China’s state-run media to label Horton as “immoral” and his nation as a former “offshore prison”.
“What’s past is past,” shrugged Sun. “I just tried to be myself today and block out all the distractions. It worked. I was more relaxed tonight. Even my family watching on TV told me I looked nervous before the 400m.
“I thought I showed more maturity tonight,” added Sun. “People can talk but what’s important is to focus on your own swimming, to do your own thing. It feels amazing.”