World, Olympic and Commonwealth Champion, Chad le Clos, told GiveMeSport in an exclusive interview, that the challenge has been laid down for the returning Michael Phelps and that he is fully focused at keeping hold of his mantle at the world's best at the 100m and 200m butterfly.

Comeback

The most decorated Olympic athlete of all-time, Michael Phelps, stunned the sporting world in April 2014, when he announced that he is going to come out of retirement after an absence of nearly 20-months.

Phelps' decision is geared very much towards the 2016 Olympics, as he looks to add to his record haul of 18-golds, 2-silver and 2-bronze, the most by any Olympic athlete.

Many questioned his decision at 29-years of age, however recent comeback performances have suggested that the superstar can still mix it with the best of them, although the returning Phelps will need to up his game if he is to dethrone the new butterfly sensation on the block, Chad le Clos.

Phelps beats Lochte in comeback race

Rivalry

Le Clos, a world record holder and double FINA World Cup Champion, famously beat swimming legend Michel Phelps to gold in the 2012 London Olympics when he edged the American by 0.05 seconds in the 200m butterfly. He then went on to push Phelps all the way in the 100m butterfly to claim silver by just 0.23 seconds during the same Games.

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World records and more gold medals during Phelp's absence, has established the 22-year old Le Clos as the world's best at both the 100m and 200m butterfly and is without question the benchmark for the returning legend if he wishes to push the boundaries of the sport once again.

Commonwealth success

Le Clos underlined his credentials as a global superstar during the recent Commonwealth Games in Glasgow when the claimed seven medals at the Tollcross International Swimming Centre. 

The 22-year old superstar pushed his mental and physical boundaries to the limit when he equalled Australian Ian Thorpe's Commonwealth record of seven medals in a single Games, winning double gold in the 100m and 200m butterfly, silver in the 4x100m freestyle relay and four bronze in the 4x200m freestyle relay, 50m butterfly, 200m individual medley and the 4x100m medley relay.

His medal haul also saw him surpass Thorpe's overall Commonwealth tally of 11-medals, bringing him level with compatriot Roland Schoeman on 12, one shy of the current record of 13, held by another Australian, Michael Wenden.

While Phelps has been establishing himself on the golf course, Le Clos has been establishing himself in the pool, and despite looking forward to the prospect of challenging him again, a defiant Le Clos reminded GiveMeSport that it is the American who is now doing the chasing.

"I am excited, it is great to have him back. It is great for the sport.

"We will see what he does this weekend because they have their trials," Le Clos referring to the US National Championships that take place this week at the Woollett Aquatics Center in Irvine, California, Phelps' fifth meeting since his comeback.

US National Championships

Phelps will be renewing his rivalry with compatriot Ryan Lochte, in a series of duels over the next five days. 

The pair will face-off in the 100-metre freestyle, 100m butterfly, 100m backstroke and 200m individual medley, with Lochte also competing in the 200m freestyle and 200m backstroke, events not on the agenda of Phelps.

The National Championships serve as a qualifier for the Pan Pacific Championships at the Gold Coast in Australia later this month, which in turn will decide the US team for the World Championships in Russia next year, most likely the first opportunity the swimming world will have to see Phelps and Le Clos compete again.

Le Clos went on to add: "He is going to be gunning for my 51.29 seconds this weekend in the 100m butterfly. Hopefully he doesn't get it."

The time Le Clos is referring to was his Commonwealth Games record and seasons best he set on route to gold in Glasgow.

Le Clos remembers his famous win over Phelps

Seasons best

Phelps' quickest comeback time in the 100m butterfly is 51.67 seconds, the third-fastest time in the world this year, which he set in the Bulldog Grand Slam Meeting at the University of Georgia about three-weeks ago.

Make no mistake, Phelps is pretty quick so early in his comeback, however Le Clos is also getting quicker and remains the leader of the pack.

"I am happy to get my number one back," Le Clos told GiveMeSport.

"Basically the challenge has been laid down to Michael now. I want to race him and hopefully beat him again. I am training very hard and focussed in doing that, so good luck to him."

Le Clos returns to the world stage when he begins the defence of his FINA World Cup crown in Doha on the 27 August and Dubai on the 29 August.

If you want to follow Chad's progress as he eyes more medals and records then look no further than his Facebook page and GiveMeSport

Topics:
Michael Phelps
Chad le Clos
Swimming
Commonwealth Games