Catch me if you can, warns Milak after smashing Phelps record
Gwangju (South Korea) (AFP)
Hungarian teen sensation Kristof Milak said Wednesday he was "honoured" to beat his hero Michael Phelps's 200 metres butterfly world record and vowed to be even stronger at next year's Tokyo Olympics.
After flirting with the American's 10-year-old record all season, the 19-year-old overpowered defending champion Chad le Clos to become the first man to dip under one minute, 51 seconds in Phelps's pet race.
Milak's eye-popping time of 1:50.73 smashed Phelps's 2009 world championship time by almost eight tenths of a second and was an astonishing three seconds faster than silver medallist Daiya Seto of Japan, with le Clos taking bronze.
"When I turned back and saw the time, all the pressure and tension left me," said the baby-faced swimmer, whose eyes lit up when he looked up at the giant screen before le Clos swam across to embrace him.
"All the joy just came out."
Milak had shown glimpses of his enormous potential by powering to the 200m butterfly title at last year's European championships, but his raw speed over the final 50 metres at the world championships in Gwangju shocked even his rivals.
A visibly stunned Le Clos acknowledged that Milak was "in another league".
"Probably one of the greatest races ever, to break that world record," said the South African.
"Kristof is a hell of a lot faster than all of us."
Milak reminded reporters he was still in primary school when Phelps set his world record in Rome.
"I was nine years old," he said. "Back then I didn't even follow swimming."
As a teenager, Milak preferred backstroke but switched to butterfly at 14 -- first over 100m, then progressing to the 200m as he grew stronger.
He actually learned the stroke by watching videos of Phelps, who retired as the most decorated athlete in Olympic history with 27 medals, an incredible 22 of them gold.
"My first real impression of watching swimming on TV was the London Olympics," said Milak.
"It's a tremendous honour to beat such a great record. All the hard work has paid off."
Coming into the race, Milak said he hadn't been targeting a world record.
"Today was a day when I tried to switch off everything," he said. "I hadn't even thought of swimming at all before the race."
The powerful teen warned his rivals he will remain the man to beat in Tokyo next year.
"Everyone will try to catch me," he said. "But I will prepared for this."
© 2019 AFP