Bouncing back from a disappointing season, by his own high standards, Chad le Clos proved he was not a spent force by charging to a new 100m butterfly world record in Windsor, Canada in the early hours of Friday morning.
The 24-year-old swimmer shattered his own two-year-old global best by 0.36, touching the wall in 48.08 seconds to defend his title on day three of the World Short-Course Championships.
American silver medallist Tom Shields was well off the pace, completing four lengths of the 25-metre pool in 49.04.
“I expected to maybe get close. I thought I’d be just off, but it all happened in the final,” said Le Clos, also the holder the global short-course mark in the 200m butterfly.
“Obviously you have to be a bit fortunate to break the world record, but to break it by… quite a long way is exciting.
“I’m very happy and proud of my performance.”
Le Clos struggled to find his best form throughout the 2016 season, settling for two silver medals at the Rio Olympics after chasing three individual titles, and finishing second overall in the annual World Cup series.
He also faced challenges outside the pool, with both his parents (Bert and Geraldine) fighting battles with cancer.
Having split with long-time coach Graham Hill after the Olympics, and moving from his home in Durban to settle in Cape Town, he showed this week he was starting to find the spark that had carried him to an Olympic title in London four years ago.
Le Clos, who had raked in two gold and one silver after three days of competition in Windsor, dedicated his latest world best to his family.
“This means everything,” he said.
“It’s been a hard year for me. There’s no secret about that, so this world record is for my mom and my dad, and my whole family.”