Villains permeate our lives.
They’re the bad guys, the people who make everybody else feel uncomfortable and slightly off their games. They torque us off sometimes. Yet we can’t take our eyes off them.
We love to watch villains perform, be bad, rock the worlds of the people around them. It’s not good that we like this. But it’s best we accept this about ourselves.
You would think in the well-organized and tightly regimented world of swimming there wouldn’t be any villains. But there are.
One is South Africa’s Chad Le Clos. He’s the guy who had the questionable audacity to shadowbox in front of Michael Phelps before the finals of the 200-meter butterfly at the 2016 Olympics in Brazil.
The world watched Chad dance and throw his punches in the air – right in front of Phelps. He poked the bear, the greatest swimmer of all time, and got eaten alive and embarrassed in the race. Phelps took Gold and Chad didn’t make it to the medal stand.
Guys like Le Clos, who do cockamamie acts like try to intimidate global superstars, don’t come along every day. At best, they’re not rational thinkers. At worst, they’re egomaniacs with delusions about their greatness and, in the end, foolish on a Shakespearean scale.
Fortunately for swimming fans across the world, Le Clos has qualified again to swim for his country during the Summer Olympics splashing down on July 24 in Tokyo.
Let’s hope Le Clos cops the same ill-conceived attitude he did four years ago when he made himself look silly on the greatest swimming stage as the whole world watched.
This entertaining psycho-drama may re-occur on July 30 when he could be racing against America’s best male swimmer, Caeleb Dressel, in the 100-meter butterfly event.
Picture the July 30th scene now: Dressel sits in the back row in the pre-racing room scowling straight ahead with his warm-up hoop covering his head. Meanwhile, Le Clos stands in his field of vision throwing air punches, trying to psyche out his opponent so he can win the Gold Medal.
Photos of this scene make the front page of every major newspaper in the world.
Will this happen? Well, we didn’t think it would the first time. We didn’t think a guy would even have – let alone execute — such a bad idea to try to psyche out Phelps. Why wouldn’t Le Clos try the same stunt with Dressel, who doesn’t have the stature and credentials of Phelps, at least not yet?
Realistically, Le Clos may not even make it to the finals of the race. This week at a European qualifying event he posted a time of 51.87.
Dressel went much faster (49.87) at the U.S. Olympic Trials in the final race. More impressive, he owns the world record time of 49.50.
Competition will be hot to make the final race of eight swimmers. Shadowboxing Le Clos will have to overperform to get a lane for that final race.
But those numerical discrepancies may not deter Le Clos from unleashing antics heading into the games. Would any of us be surprised if he posted a Tweet between now and the Olympic race along these lines:
Hey Dressel. I’m gonna ruin your dreams in Tokyo just like I did to Phelps in London in 2012. You’re gonna choke to me at the 100-meter fly. American swimmers including Phelps are overrated. #shadowboxinginyourhead
A wild Tweet such as this would stir the world’s swimming juices into a delicious summer cocktail. We could all pour it through our veins right up until the swimming events begin.
Please, Chad, post the Tweet. Pour us a global glass of your wrong-headed but refreshing brand of Kool-Aid.
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