The 2017 aquatics season was again a two-man show, with Chad le Clos and Cameron van der Burgh spearheading a lone fight as South African swimming continued to rely on the duo to carry the nation’s hopes at the highest level.
Le Clos ended a lengthy drought in the 200m butterfly at the World Championships in Budapest in July, with the former Olympic champion securing his first global title over the distance since 2013.
Van der Burgh was as reliable as ever, and after delivering consistent performances throughout the year, he stepped up once again by reaching the podium in the Hungarian capital.
Highlight of the year
Van der Burgh delivered a historic effort with his bronze medal at the global championships. After setting an African record of 26.54 seconds in the heats of the 50m breaststroke event, he went on to earn his sixth successive sprint medal at the biennial spectacle. Though British world record holder Adam Peaty was in spectacular form, the South African proved he was still a force.
Disappointment of the year
As good as he was in the 200m butterfly final in Budapest, Le Clos went on to crash out in the penultimate round of the 100m event in his specialist stroke when he ended seventh in his semifinal in 51.48. Aiming for a record third straight crown over two laps, after winning the world title in 2013 and 2015, he was unable to make the grade for a spot in the podium contest.
Controversy of the year
While no fingers were pointed, Olympic finalist Brad Tandy did not make it to the World Championships despite achieving the qualifying criteria at the trials. The US-based sprinter, who finished in a tie for sixth place in the 50m freestyle final at last year’s Rio Games, was forced to watch the showpiece on TV after reportedly failing to secure a visa in time.
Star of the year
Again we turn to Le Clos, whose successes far outweighed his failures. His winning time of 1:53.33 in the 200m butterfly at the World Championships was his fastest performance since he set the African record of 1:52.96 at the 2012 London Olympics. The 25-year-old swimmer also became the first man to win the overall World Cup series title four times, making a dominant sweep of the lucrative annual short-course campaign.