Displaying humility and maturity in defeat, Chad le Clos says he will come back stronger next year after losing his global crown on Wednesday to Hungarian teenager Kristof Milak.
Le Clos, the defending champion in the 200m butterfly, settled for third place in 1:54.15 at the World Aquatics Championships in Gwangju.
Though he earned South Africa’s first medal of the showpiece, he was well off the pace of Milak, who shattered the world record held by American legend Michael Phelps to win gold in a remarkable time of 1:50.73.
“It was a tough race. I tried my best and went out very hard in the first 100m,” Le Clos said.
“I thought I could win the race and I tried to test his chin, but he was resilient. He was fantastic.”
Le Clos, who was battling with a groin injury, nonetheless believed he could challenge for victory at next year’s Tokyo Olympics, as he aimed to add to his four career medals at the Games.
“Nothing changes for me,” he said.
“He was great and I was beaten by a long way, so I’ve got a lot of work to do but I’ll come hunt him down next year.
“I will come back stronger and I will be very competitive against him next season.”
Though he had withdrawn from the 100m freestyle heats earlier in the day, Le Clos was set to return to the pool later in the week, in search of another place on the podium and his third world title in the 100m butterfly event.
Meanwhile, despite being unable to progress to the final, the SA 4x100m mixed relay team broke the African record in the morning heats, on day four of the swimming gala at the global showpiece.
The national quartet, consisting of Chris Reid, Tatjana Schoenmaker, Ryan Coetzee and Erin Gallagher, settled for 15th position in a new continental mark of 3:49.90.