SAN ANTONIO (Texas) • A simmering rivalry is brewing between Michael Phelps and Chad le Clos.
Phelps sent a clear statement of intent to his 2016 Rio Olympic rivals, after taking gold with another stunning year-best time in the 100m butterfly at the US championships on Saturday.
It was the 22-time Olympic medallist's second dazzling performance in as many days, as he won with a time of 50.45sec. On Friday, he had also posted a year-best timing in the 200m fly.
His 100m fly timing eclipsed the 50.56 time that le Clos posted in winning the same event at the Fina World Championships some eight hours earlier in Kazan, Russia.
Le Clos had marked that victory with some verbal barbs at Phelps - who was in San Antonio rather than in Kazan because his drink-driving arrest last year cost him his world championships berth.
BEWARE THE LAST LAP, PHELPS
I hope he's in good shape, because I'm in good shape and when Chad le Clos comes at you in the last 50m, you'd better be ready.
CHAD LE CLOS South African world and Olympic champion
BEWARE THE TRASH TALK, LE CLOS
I absolutely love it. It fuels me. Whatever I do in the pool will speak for itself.
MICHAEL PHELPS Olympic legend
"I'm very excited for Rio next year and I hope he's in good shape, because I'm in good shape and when Chad le Clos comes at you in the last 50m, you'd better be ready," the South African said .
"Phelps did a great time (in the 200m fly), but with all due respect, that's not so hard to do when you're swimming on your own."
"I absolutely love it," said the American whose 18 Olympic golds include eight in Beijing in 2008.
"It just fuels me. Whatever I do in the pool will speak for itself."
The 30-year-old's 100m fly time was almost a second faster than his gold-medal winning performance at the 2012 London Olympics.
He also holds the world record of 49.82, set in Rome in 2009.
"I think that is exactly where I want to be right now," he said. "Let that swim make statements."
Phelps' performances in the US championships show he will challenge at the Rio Games.
The long-distance spat with le Clos should spice up the action in the Rio pool. Their rivalry stretches back to the London Games, where le Clos shocked Phelps for the 200m fly gold.
Le Clos apparently took exception this year when Phelps observed that since he had stepped away after the 2012 Games, times in the 200 fly had not improved much.
Phelps insisted he had not meant to needle any potential rival. "I don't do it to talk trash," he said.
"I do it to state facts. I know my facts about the sport of swimming."
"I've come a long way in the last year, and stuff like this makes me excited and motivated for the year to come." AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE,