Despite producing one of the best performances of his career, Chad le Clos was dealt a double blow in the men’s 200m butterfly final on Tuesday, losing both his world record and the global title on the opening day of the Fina World Short-Course Championships in Hangzhou.
After taking the early lead, Le Clos slipped off the pace, and while he fought back over the final 25 metres, he was edged out by 0.08 in a hard-fought battle against Daiya Seto of Japan.
Seto touched the wall in a new world record of 1:48.24 and Le Clos finished in 1:48.32, breaking his own African mark, with both swimmers dipping under the previous global standard of 1:48.56 set by Le Clos in Singapore in November 2013.
While the South African earned his 12th career medal at the biennial short-course showpiece, he missed out in his attempt to secure a third successive butterfly treble, though he was expected to contest for gold over shorter distances later in the week.
Former world champion Cameron van der Burgh, meanwhile, kept himself in the hunt for the podium in the men’s 100m breaststroke event.
Van der Burgh was sixth fastest in the semifinals, clocking 56.90 seconds to book his place in Wednesday’s final.
Earlier on day one, 16-year-old prospect Rebecca Meeder was 18th overall in the women’s 400m individual medley heats and Ayrton Sweeney settled for 27th place in the opening round of the men’s 200m medley.