Four years ago in London, South Africa’s Chad Le Clos beat Michael Phelps by five-one hundredths of a second in the 200 meter butterfly. It was a loss that rankled Phelps and emboldened Le Clos from that day until this one.
In the minutes prior to the semifinal of the 200 meter butterfly on Monday night, Le Clos spent time in the ready room smiling, shadowboxing and trying hard to project an aura of confidence. Meanwhile, Phelps simply sat back and glowered. The battle of wills continued out on the deck, as Le Clos did not take his eyes off Phelps for the entire run-up to the race. Phelps, meanwhile, focused only on the water in front of him.
In this semifinal, Phelps finished second and Le Clos finished third. They’ll duel again on Tuesday night, which will mark a record-setting fifth final for Phelps.
Afterward, NBC’s Michele Tafoya asked Phelps about the moments in the ready room: “What were you thinking?”
“Nothing,” Phelps replied. “I was trying to not even look at him. He does his thing, I do my thing.”
Phelps did indeed, and added another layer of drama to what’s been a highly entertaining swimming element at Rio 2016.
Not saying Phelps WILL become an intergalactic despot, I'm just saying we can't ignore the possibility pic.twitter.com/ojW1w9Hsd3
— Jay Busbee (@jaybusbee) August 8, 2016
When you're the real Slim Shady but someone else stood up. pic.twitter.com/CtQTu7FXEa
— B®endan (@ChiBDM) August 9, 2016
/TV cuts back to Phelps as he's calmly adjusting a folding chair and the South African guy is nowhere to be seen pic.twitter.com/gpXcCaiGNL
— Ben Jones (@Ben_Jones88) August 9, 2016
when Jethro Tull wins the 1989 Hard Rock/Metal Grammy pic.twitter.com/Ig6bCCgi0K
— Gheorghe: The Blog (@gheorghetheblog) August 9, 2016
— Ryan Ballengee (@RyanBallengee) August 9, 2016
When someome has "just a quick question" at the end of a two hour meeting before lunch pic.twitter.com/OSpWisTioE
— Kerith Burke (@KerithBurke) August 9, 2016
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports and the author of EARNHARDT NATION, on sale now at Amazon or wherever books are sold. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.