14 November 2011
Nineteen-year-old swimming sensation Chad le Clos secured the overall Fina/Arena World Cup title in Japan on the weekend, joining Ryk Neethling and Cameron van der Burgh as South Africans who have captured the prestigious title.
After claiming the $100 000 (approximately R788 000) first prize, Le Clos, in an interview with Fina, revealed that he had enjoyed a fair share of good luck on his way to the title because he had begun the season as a late replacement.
“I was lucky to be in the series and the great start in Dubai (where he won six gold medals) gave me the possibility of making the top three and possibly winning.”
Le Clos twice delivered six gold medal performances; apart from Dubai, he also achieved the feat in Beijing.
Swimming in his seventh and final meet in Tokyo, Le Clos admitted that it was tough to maintain his form through so much time and travel, with events taking place in Dubai, Stockholm, Moscow, Berlin, Singapore, Beijing, and Tokyo, between 7 October and 13 November.
In Tokyo, he won the 200 metres freestyle, which was his 22nd win during the World Cup Series. He also picked up silver medals in the 200m butterfly, 200m individual medley, and 100m individual medley, and added a bronze in the 100m freestyle in which Olympic champion Alain Bernard finished fourth.
His final margin of victory in the overall World Cup standings was substantial. Le Clos claimed first place with 176 points. Second went to Japan’s Hidemasa Sano on 90 points, with Germany’s Marco Koch in third with 65 points.
‘They were gunning for me’
Looking back on his performances in Japan, Le Clos said: “I knew it was going to be hard and that there were some wonderful Japanese and Chinese swimmers, who are good at medleys, breaststroke and butterfly. They were gunning for me, as you could see.”
Questioned about what he enjoyed most about the World Cup, Le Clos said: “Swimming against the best in the world and getting to swim against Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte. If you want to win Olympic gold, you have to beat those swimmers.”
He summed up his World Cup season by saying: “It’s been a tough World Cup and I learned so much. I made a few mistakes but enjoyed the experience and the support has been amazing.
“Thank you to my sponsors and Olympic Federation for the support for my success at the World Cup. A special thanks to my coach Graham Hill for a solid preparation.”
Cherry on the top
Back home, there was a cherry on the top for Le Clos; he won the Most Promising Athlete award at the Telkom Swimming South Africa Aquatic Awards in Kempton Park on Saturday.
The Swimmer of the Year award went the way of two-time World Series winner Cameron van der Burgh.
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