GOLD COAST, Australia — Chad le Clos won the 50-meter butterfly for South Africa, did a victory lap on the pool deck and was back in the water within minutes leading halfway through the 200 freestyle final.
It was pretty much Australia’s night after that Friday in the Commonwealth Games pool.
Lactic acid kicked in and le Clos ran out of steam, fading to finish seventh after the Australian pair of Kyle Chalmers and Mack Horton overhauled him over the last two laps to take gold and silver.
“I’m very happy with the 50. The 200, not so much,” said le Clos, who came to the Gold Coast hoping to set a record for most career medals in the Commonwealth Games. “I went hard early, try to kill the race if I could, then hang on.
“The turnaround was tougher than I expected. When I saw Kyle coming past I was like, ‘ahhg,” he joked, “I nearly grabbed his leg.”
Chalmers, the Olympic 100 freestyle champion who missed the world championships last year to undergo heart surgery for a for a non-life-threatening condition, powered home to hold off Olympic 400 gold medalist Horton.
That kicked off a run of gold medals for the Aussies, with Clyde Lewis holding off Scotland’s Mark Szaranek and New Zealand’s Lewis Clareburt to win the 400 medley, Mitch Larkin winning the 100 backstroke, Emma McKeon leading a sweep of medals in the women’s 100 backstroke in a games record 56.78 seconds.
Chalmers capped the night when he anchored the home team to a dominant victory in the 4×100 freestyle relay, the sixth Australian gold of Day 2 in the pool.
Le Clos hadn’t won any kind of 50-meter title in an Olympic-size pool, so he was content with his opening victory despite the absence of world champion Ben Proud of England, who was disqualified in the preliminaries.
He entered the Gold Coast games chasing seven medals in a bid to surpass the Commonwealth Games record career haul of 18. After missing out in the 200, he revised his target down to equal the mark.
Le Clos swam the second leg of the relay but his South Africa team finished out of the medals, meaning his bid to set the record will have to wait until 2022. He has 13 to date.
Chalmers knew le Clos would go out hard in the 200, so he settled early and then made up five places over the last two laps to win in 1 minute, 45.56 seconds for his first Commonwealth Games title. He was 0.33 ahead of teammate Mack Horton, who won the 400 free the previous night. Scott Duncan of Scotland took bronze.
“The third 50 felt pretty strong, and I knew I had a bit to give in that last 50,” he said. “It’s awesome to go 1-2 with one of my best mates.”
Le Clos won the 50 fly in 23.37 seconds, beating Dylan Carter of Trinidad and Tobago and fellow South African Ryan Coetzee to open the night program. His victory ceremony for that followed Sarah Vasey’s win in the women’s 50-meter breaststroke in the very next race, and didn’t give him much time to prepare for the freestyle.
Vasey’s win in 30.60 seconds gave England its fifth gold medal in the pool and Alia Atkinson of Jamaica picked up silver for the second straight Commonwealth Games. Australia’s Leiston Picket, who entered as the two-time defending champion, finished third.
The second-night surge gave Australia the lead in the pool with eight gold, seven silver and seven bronze. England was in second spot with six gold, two silver and a pair of bronze.