SINGAPORE - Trailing Japan's Daiya Seto by a head at the 175m mark, Chad le Clos looked a beaten man in the men's 200m butterfly on the first day of the Singapore leg of the Fina/airweave Swimming World Cup at the OCBC Aquatic Centre on Saturday (Nov 18).
The 25-year-old South African summoned the same fighting spirit which saw him rebound from a disappointing 2016 to reclaim his 200m fly crown at the World Championships in July to overhaul Seto in the final lap of the short course event.
Le Clos touched home in 1min 49.25sec, nearly a second ahead of the Japanese (1:50.19). Seto's compatriot Masaki Kaneko (1:52.23) was third.
"It was a great race and I have to really thank the crowd here today. Singapore has always shown me a lot of support since the Youth Olympic Games and it was that support that brought me home over the last 25m," said le Clos, whose preparations for the Rio Olympics were disrupted by news of both his parents stricken with cancer.
The Fina World Cup is an international series of eight meets held in the short course (25m pool) format. Singapore is the last leg.
A swimmer gets 12 points for each race win, with nine and six points awarded to the second- and third-place finishers respectively.
A further 24, 18 and 12 points are given for the top-three best performing male and female swimmers at each meet, while breaking a world record earns swimmers 20 points.
Le Clos' win on Saturday helped him keep an unassailable 117-point lead over Russia's Vladimir Morozov in the men's overall standings.
The South African is assured of bagging the US$150,000 (S$203,400) prize money if he wins the overall men's title, pending confirmation from Fina on Sunday.
Sprint king Morozov did his part by winning the 100m individual medley (50.49) and 50m freestyle (20.61), but the 25-year-old Russian is not hoping for a miracle on Sunday.
"He has a lead of over a 100 points and I don't think I can catch him anymore," said Morozov, who won the overall title last year.
With a 123-point lead over Hungary's Katinka Hosszu, Olympic 100m fly champion Sarah Sjostrom is also guaranteed of the women's overall title.
The 24-year-old Swede finished second (50.99) in the 100m freestyle behind Australia's Cate Campbell (50.85) and sixth in the 200m medley (2:09.84), which was won by Hosszu (2:04.37)
Said Sjostrom of her 100m free race: "It wasn't my best race but I still went under 51 seconds so I'm happy with that.
"I have a pretty big lead at the moment so tomorrow is just about my technique in my two races (50m fly, 200m free)."
In action for Singapore on Saturday were Christie Chue (eighth, 1:09.76) in the 100m breaststroke and Gan Ching Hwee (8:49.99) and Chantal Liew (eighth, 9:04.49) in the 800m freestyle.
The Fina World Cup continues on Sunday at the OCBC Aquatic Centre.