A clearly shocked, tearful, le Clos told the BBC immediately after his win: “I was dreaming about this since I was a little boy. Michael is my hero I just cannot believe it.”

Le Clos beat Phelps to gold by two one-hundreths of a second, clinching his win in his final stroke.

Takeshi Matsuda was third for Japan.

Yesterday, 20 year-old le Clos qualified fastest, again upstaging the iconic American swimmer Michael Phelps. 

Earlier in the day, le Clos said he thought he would need to swim faster than the national record he set on Monday if he wanted to win a medal in the London 2012 men’s 200 metres butterfly tonight.

The South African swimmer said: “I definitely think I need to go faster if I want to win a medal. I’m pretty sure that there will be at least three or four guys that could go under 1:54.”

However, le clos wasn’t ruling out winning a medal in the men’s butterfly, adding:  “I could come eighth or I could get a medal. It is a very close final and there are some really great swimmers out there. I’m just going to go out there and I will race 100 percent.”

 Despite losing to le Los, Phelps’s silver medal still makes him the joint highest medal-winning athlete in Olympic history.