After all the trash talk and the waiting of four years, the memes are here. For what? To celebrate Michael Phelps shutting up Chad le Clos, and beating him in the 200 meters butterfly, while the South African was left outside the medal count with a fourth place finish.
Phelps won one of his three gold medals in Rio (so far) by reclaiming the title in his signature race, the 200 meters fly. He was stunned by Le Clos four years ago in London, and Phelps’ comeback last year, while Le Clos won the 200 fly in the world championships, set up the heated rivalry in the Rio pool. While Le Clos won gold in Kazan, Phelps set a better time in a competition in the United States.
Phelps isn’t the swimmer he was in 2008, but his ability to put the last few years behind him and regain his dominance in the pool is nothing short of incredible. Greatest Olympian ever? Obviously there will be arguments, and swimming offers more opportunity for medals in a single meet, but at least in the water, there’s never been anyone like him.
Le Clos isn’t a bad swimmer, but seemed to have peak in 2012-2013. His results and performance in 2015 signaled he’s on his way down, and finishing outside the top 3 in what should be his best event further showed that while minor champions fall and rise quite naturally, Phelps is almost impervious to the test of time, remaining above the rest despite these being his fifth Olympic games.