Star South African swimmer Chad le Clos admitted that failing to reach the Olympic podium stung a lot as he finished fifth in the men’s 200m butterfly final on Wednesday.
Le Clos was looking to win South Africa’s third medal at the Tokyo Games but failed to make the podium in what is likely his final 200m butterfly at the Olympics.
South Africa’s most decorated swimmer was the underdog heading into the final as he had to overcome world record holder Kristof Milak of Hungary.
Le Clos started off the 200m butterfly strong as he led at the 100m split. However, Milak soon powered through the field as he led for the final 100m as Le Clos fell behind.
Milak stopped the clock in a time of 1:51.25 as he set a new Olympic record, eclipsing Michael Phelps’ record by 0.78 seconds.
Le Clos fell back and touched the wall in fifth place in 1:54.93 as Japan’s Tomoru Honda took silver (1:53.73) and Italian Federico Burdisso finished third (1:54.45). 
“I was feeling really good and thought I was going to win at one stage,” said Le Clos after his performance on Wednesday.
“It stung real bad because I touched at 150m and I had a chance, but then coming back, my legs just stopped working and I could see them coming and thought I could maybe hang on.
“It sucks, but congratulations to Kristoff, he was going to be tough to beat anyway. He saved his best for last so well played.”
Le Clos says that his hot start had nothing to do with him losing power at the end.
“It was a game plan from January. It was a perfect set up for me to deliver, it’s how I measured it,” said the 29-year-old.
“I wouldn’t change anything. I knew what I had to do, my game is solid. It just didn’t work out, the body caught up to me, I don’t know if the years caught up.
“I worked hard this year. It’s sad because my mind and soul deserve better than this. But when you swim with these guys sometimes it just doesn’t come together, it is what it is.
“I felt great and when I walked out there, I wasn’t nervous at all. The body just didn’t work or come back.”
Le Clos, who won the gold in the 200m butterfly at the 2012 London Games, says that he really wanted to make his country proud after Tatjana Schoenmaker and Bianca Buitendag’s medal-winning performances on Tuesday.
“I stand here today with no excuses and my head held high. It’s disappointing because I really wanted to give a medal to my country,” said Le Clos.
“It’s part of life, but it hurts a lot. It’s not quite as bad as four years ago, but I’ll be back, it’s not the end.
“I’ll get them again and get better. I’ll get them before they get me and get them again, no problem.”
Le Clos says that if he had won, it would’ve been his last 200m butterfly race but revealed that he’ll now be eyeing his revenge at next year’s Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.
“If I had won then it would be my last, but we’ll win it at the Commonwealth Games next year,” he said.
“I’ll remind everyone again there, but that could be my final one.”
Le Clos will now shift his focus on the 100m butterfly heats scheduled for Thursday (12:56 SA time).