Commonwealth Games: Lewis Clareburt Tips Chad le Clos in Tight 200 Fly

Lewis Clareburt, 400m IM NZ record during Session 3 of the AON New Zealand Swimming Champs, National Aquatic Centre, Auckland, New Zealand. Tuesday 6 April 2021 Photo: Simon Watts/
Photo Courtesy: NZ Swimming

Commonwealth Games: Lewis Clareburt Tips Chad le Clos in Tight 200 Fly

Chad le Clos promised after the morning prelims that the race would be “a humdinger.” He might have gotten more than he bargained for in the men’s 200 butterfly final at the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

The South African led for the first 150 meters before a furious final 50 from New Zealand’s Lewis Clareburt secured the win in 1:55.60.

Le Clos, the reigning champion and Games record holder, got silver in 1:55.89.

Clareburt had set the pace in prelims, .09 ahead of le Clos. But the timing of Saturday’s final in Birmingham, coming a decade to the day of le Clos’s monumental upset of Michael Phelps in the 200 fly final at the London Games, wasn’t lost on the now 30-year-old.

“It’s spooky,” Le Clos said in the morning. “It’s a monumental day for me absolutely but you know what – I ‘ve taken the emotion out of today because it’s different, you know what I’m saying? It’s the same country, same day, same hour, same lane but at the end of the day, I’ve just got to be composed tonight, execute, have a game plan.”

Le Clos has lived a long swimming life since that triumph – three more Olympic medals at two Games, 14 Worlds medals and seven golds at the Commonwealth Games. He’s fought his demons away from the pool, as well. Sunday’s swim denied le Clos a four-peat in the event, dating back to the 2010 Games in Delhi.

It was little consolation to le Clos that Sunday marked his 18th career Commonwealth Games medal, tying him for the most ever across all sports, with English pistol shooter Mick Gault and Australian shooter Phillip Adams.

“I’m gutted not to have won, I’ll be honest with you,” le Clos said after the final. “I was stinging the last 50. Fair play to Lewis, he had a great race and great 400IM last night. It is what it is. It’s kind of how Michael did last time – he got the silver 10 years ago and he became the best Olympian of all time. I’ll take the medal for sure but I wanted the gold actually. That’s what I was planning to do.”

Sunday was the time to shine for the 23-year-old Clareburt. The Wellington native was third at the 150-meter mark, a half-second back of leading le Clos with James Guy in between. But Clareburt rocketed home in 30.42, taking nearly seven tenths out of le Clos (31.21) and a second and a half out of Guy (31.92).

Guy, swimming for England, touched third in 1:56.77. He had just enough to hold off Bowen Gough of Australia (1:56.84) and Scotland’s Duncan Scott (1:56.89), who took bronze in 2018.