Le Clos a swimming sensation in Beijing

10 November 2011

South Africa’s Chad le Clos continued his fine form in the Fina/Arena World Cup at the “Water Cube” in Beijing on Wednesday with a fantastic haul of six gold medals and one silver after two days of competition.

Besides all his wins, Le Clos also topped the points charts by tallying 931 for his victory in the 200 metres butterfly.

With only one meeting remaining in Japan, the 19-year-old has a comfortable lead in the standings and will almost certainly join past champions Ryk Neethling and Cameron van der Burgh as the overall winner of the World Cup.

Goals

“I set goals for times that I wanted to achieve at these World Cup events, without knowing who I would be competing against,” he told the Fina website.

“World Cup competition was intended as a training exercise for me. I need to get used to racing like this and to prepare for multiple events, and also South African relays that I hope to be a part of.

“I look at [Michael] Phelps and [Ryan] Lochte and see how they swim multiple events, and I need to prepare like them if I am going to challenge them at the Olympics.”

Assessing his season so far, he added: “I had a really strong start in Dubai, winning six events, and at that moment I decided that I should set another goal for a top-three finish in the Fina World Cup rankings.

‘Really pleased’

“I’m really pleased with where I stand in the Fina rankings,” he continued. “The [overall] prize of $100 000 offers me a great deal of motivation to race well here and to finish strong in Japan.”

In his first race, the 100 metres freestyle, an event he seldom swims, Le Clos was pipped to the post by Kyle Richardson of Australia, who touched in 47.38, just one-hundredth of a second ahead of the South African.

Le Clos then opened his gold medal run with victory in the 400 metres individual medley, finishing ahead of Austria’s Markus Rogan and China’s Zhang Lie. It marked his fourth victory in the event during the World Cup series.

His second win came in the 200 metres butterfly, which he claimed in 1:51.74, well clear of second-placed Christopher Wright of Australia (1:53.82) and Chen Weiwu of China. It was his fifth win in the same event.

Mastery

Exhibiting his mastery of all strokes once again, Le Clos secured his third gold medal in the 100m individual medley in 52.89, holding off the challenge of Kyle Richardson and Sui Xiaolei of China.

On day two, Le Clos was quickly back in winning form after a tight battle with Jiang Haiqi for the 200 metres freestyle title. He touched in 1:42.62 to hold off the Chinese swimmer, who finished in 1:43.89.

The South African’s gold medal rush continued in the 100m butterfly. It was a repeat of the result of the event in the previous stop in Singapore, with Le Clos taking the title ahead of Christopher Wright in 50.93.

In the 200 metres individual medley, Le Clos trailed the Austrian Markus Rogan after 150 metres, but he closed extremely strongly in the final leg to record a convincing victory in 1:55.04 to Rogan’s 1:56.33. Le Clos had previously won the event in Dubai, Moscow and Singapore.

“I’m very happy with my performances in Beijing,” he told Fina afterwards.

‘A tougher day’

“Tonight was a tougher day for me, even though the events were shorter and easier. I’m definitely pleased that this meet is over. I had a two-and-half hour nap today and I woke up delirious. It was hard to get up and race today, but I’m pleased with three gold medals tonight and to know the end isn’t too far off.

“I have one more stop in Tokyo and then I can pick up my check for winning the Fina World Cup.”

Reflecting on his path to becoming a world class swimmer, Le Clos said: “When I was younger I was inspired by Terence Parkin, the South African Olympian who medalled in the Sydney Olympic Games. He was coached by Graham Hill, who is also my coach, so I have a connection to him. Terence is deaf and yet he raced and beat many able bodied athletes in the Olympic Games.”

Le Clos admitted that he wasn’t disappointed with missing out on a win in the 100 metres freestyle. “I’m especially pleased with my silver medal in the 100m free yesterday,” he said. “It was the only time that I raced the 100m freestyle, but my time was a PB (personal best) and only .01 second away from [my seventh] gold medal.”

Medal haul

So far, with one meet remaining, Le Clos has won 22 gold medals during the World Cup series, as well as six silvers and two bronzes.

Throughout the season, in six World Cup stops, he has only twice failed to finish among the medals.

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