26 June 2012
Aged just 20, South Africa’s Chad le Clos is already good enough to compete against, and beat, the best swimmers in the world, but, given his age, his best may be yet to come.
Since appearing on the world stage in 2010, Le Clos has very quickly made his despite his relatively short international career.
In 2010, at the Youth Olympics in Singapore, he was South Africa’s outstanding performer, winning five medals. He claimed gold in the 200 metres individual medley, won silver medals in the 100m butterfly, 200m butterfly and 400m freestyle, and picked up a bronze medal in the 4 x 100m freestyle relay.
Later that year, he fared even better at the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, India. He won gold medals in the 200 metres butterfly and 400 metres individual medley, picked up a silver medal in the 4x100m medley relay, and added a bronze in the 4x200m freestyle relay.
He was fifth in the 200m butterfly at the Fina 2011 World Aquatics Championships in Shanghai, China.
Le Clos made his biggest mark of 2011 in the Fina World Cup Series and followed in the steps of Ryk Neethling and Cameron van der Burgh as he very convincingly captured the overall series title.
He began the series with an incredible six wins in Dubai and repeated that feat in Beijing.
He was strong throughout the series and his results included three victories in the 200m freestyle, two in the 200m backstroke, three in the 100m butterfly, four in the 200m butterfly, three in the 100, individual medley (IM), four in the 200m IM, and four in the 400m IM for a grand total of 23 victories.
After returning from the final event of the Fina World Cup Series in Tokyo, Le Clos won the Most Promising Athlete award at the Telkom Swimming South Africa Aquatic Awards in Kempton Park in November.
Five events in London
He has qualified to swim in five events at the London Olympics – the 200m and 400m individual medleys, the 200m freestyle, and the 100m and 200m butterfly – which is a record for a South African swimmer.
His coach, Graham Hill, himself a former South African in multiple events, believes his charge will achieve his best results in four years’ time at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in Brazil.
Interviewed by Graeme Joffe on News24, Le Clos admitted that the 2012 Games might not be his best chance at winning medals, but that doesn’t rule him out of getting onto the podium.
‘My main Olympics will be in 2016’
He said: “Hopefully my main Olympics will be in 2016. That is the goal that me and Graham have always had since I was a young boy. So, these Olympics, to be honest, will be a bonus for me.
“I am going to go there fully prepared, of course, in the best shape of my life,” Le Clos said. “Just to go there and enjoy it and enjoy the experience of competing against the best in the world.
“I think what is going to be very special in these Olympics is that Michael Phelps is swimming as well, and the five disciplines that I race are the exact same five that he swims. He has been a role model for me growing up, and you know, just to race against him, one of the greatest Olympians of all time, will be a great honour.”
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