Michael Phelps and Chad Le Clos Have Trash Talked for Years: One Race Determined Who Came Out on Top

South African swimmer Chad le Clos shocked the world when he snuck in the touch that beat Michael Phelps in the 200 meter butterfly in London 2012. Since then, the two have traded barbs, but haven’t rematched.

Following London, Phelps retired – but his retirement was short-lived, and he began training again in 2014. He initially said he planned to stay away from the 200 fly, his signature event, but then he noticed something that made him reconsider:

“The times being put up [in the 200 fly] aren’t getting faster.”

Chad le Clos, who had been racking up the “not much faster” times in Phelps’s absence, responded quickly:

“Michael Phelps has been talking about how slow the butterfly events have been recently. I just did a time he hasn’t done in four years. So he can keep quiet now.”

Phelps answered le Clos’s comments with a time in the 100 fly that not only beat the time the South African had turned in just 8 hours earlier, but was nearly a full second faster than his London gold medal time.

Only then did Phelps add his own comment:

“There are a lot of things I could say. But I won’t. I’m going to let what I do in the pool do my talking.”

And le Clos:

“I’m just very happy that he’s back to his good form, so he can’t come out and say, ‘Oh, I haven’t been training,’ or all that rubbish that he’s been talking.”

But it all came to a head in Rio. On Monday evening, leading into the qualifying heats, Chad le Clos shadow boxed in front of an apparently irritated Michael Phelps:

And on Tuesday, in just 1:53.36, Michael Phelps made history. He earned his 20th gold medal. He became the oldest male swimmer to win gold in an individual event. He took back bragging rights.

And he threw a little shade:

The NBC commentators summed it up perfectly: “Chad le Clos was either brilliant or a little nuts. I think he was a little nuts. You don’t poke the tiger.”

Watch the full race here:

What do you think?

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