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LONDON, England, August 2. THE giant killer Chad le Clos of South Africa continued his remarkable meet with a blistering prelim time to lead the men's 100-meter fly qualifying at the 2012 London Olympics.
Le Clos, who edged Michael Phelps in the 200 fly earlier in the week, ending a potential historic threepeat bid by the greatest Olympian of all time, scratched the 200 IM finals to focus on the sprint fly. It worked to the tune of a 51.54. South Africa has never medaled in the event, but le Clos is definitely in position to change that.
“I don't think so,” le Clos said when asked if he has a chance to beat Phelps again. “It is too short for me. I am just sticking to (trying to get) a fast time to get to the final. These guys will be a lot quicker (in the semifinals) than they were this morning. I hope I can do the same time (in the semifinals) and that will be enough to get me to the final.”
Phelps, in the final heat of six, touched out 2008 silver medalist Milorad Cavic of Serbia, 51.72 to 51.90, for the second seed, while Cavic took fifth overall. The finish was reminiscent of one of Phelps' glory moments from the 2008 Beijing Olympics when he topped Cavic, 50.58 to 50.59. Should Phelps miss out on the 200 IM threepeat, he will get another shot at becoming the first man to win three in a row at the Olympics with his 100 fly. Only Dawn Fraser and Krisztina Egerszegi have managed to win three straight titles in Olympic history.
“It doesn't really add too much time for rest purposes tonight if I'm in the first or the second one (semifinal),” Phelps said of his double with the 200 IM. “We just wanted to come in and get a good morning swim, so that was fun. I'm not sure what I was out in, but I think I finished pretty well, so if I'm able to punch the first 50m a little bit more over the next, hopefully two swims, it will be good. This is my last prelim swim ever so that was pretty fun to be able to do a pretty decent time in it.”
Phelps also received a phone call from U.S. President Barack Obama, and he spoke to the press about the experience.
“I answered the phone and a voice on the other end said: 'Please hold for the president of the United States' and I was like 'wow',” Phelps said. “We talked about how everyone was supporting me and at the end he said: 'Make sure you tell your mom I said hi'.”
Cavic also spoke to the press after his swim.
“It was all I needed,” Cavic said. “The plan was not be first going into the semi. I just need to go out there and do what I can do. It's about doing everything right for tonight while saving as much energy as possible for tomorrow night. It is never worth underestimating that man [Phelps]. He is capable of anything. I am just lucky to be here. I think I am in position to do something great tomorrow night.”
Russia's Evgeny Korotyshkin placed third in 51.84. In his third Olympics, he has yet to medal. His closest calls were a pair of fourth-place finishes in the 400 medley relay in 2004 and 2008. He's definitely looking to get to the podium for the first time in his career.
Poland's Konrad Czerniak (51.85), Germany's Steffen Deibler (51.92), USA's Tyler McGill (51.95) and China's Zhou Jiawei (52.06) completed the top eight.
The Netherlands' Joeri Verlinden (52.07), Australia's Chris Wright (52.11), Russia's Nikolay Skvortsov (52.12), Hungary's Bence Pulai (52.19), Austria's Dinko Jukic (52.22), Belgium's Francois Heersbrandt (52.22) and Kenya's Jason Dunford (52.23) also made semis. Germany's Ben Starke and Japan's Takeshi Matsuda set up a swimoff with 16th-place tying 52.36s. Starke moved on to the semis after Matsuda elected not to do the swimoff.
Sweden's Lars Frolander swam in his sixth Olympics, taking 20th in the event with a 52.47. He is a three-time medalist, including a gold in this event in 2000.
“It's fantastic, as always,” Frolander said of swimming in his sixth Olympics. “I am really disappointed with that [heat]. From the start I just lost my arms going into the water. I went really, really deep. I lost a lot of time there and it's hard to start pulling it back from that.”
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