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Into the future : Chad le Clos

August 8, 2013

BCN 2013 Chad le Clos 1

In the space of a year, Chad le Clos has established himself as an SA sporting superstar.

Le Clos went to the 2012 Olympic Games in London for the experience, and returned with two medals: a gold and a silver. Twelve months later, at the Fina World Championships in Barcelona, there would be more pressure on him to succeed.

The 21-year-old would live up to the expectation, winning gold medals in both the 100m and 200m butterfly events. He is already one of SA’s great success stories.

Le Clos and Cameron van der Burgh brought the sport of swimming into the spotlight again following their Olympic victories in 2012. A year later there is more money invested in the sport, and more of a buzz and a sense of expectation among the public. If the chatter on talk radio and the Internet was anything to go by, people were excited to watch Le Clos swim in Barcelona, and they were also expecting Van der Burgh to replicate his Olympic feats.

Despite travelling to the world championships with a shoulder injury, Van der Burgh also did not disappoint. The 25-year-old bagged a silver medal in the 100m breaststroke, and finished strongly in the 50m discipline to claim gold and the world title.

In the same race another South African, Giulio Zorzi, won the bronze medal. Almost immediately after winning, Van der Burgh swam across several lanes to embrace his team-mate and offer his congratulations. There was another special moment when Van der Burgh pulled Zorzi onto the winner’s podium at the beginning of Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika, and both swimmers proceeded to sing the anthem proudly.

These are exciting times for SA swimming. Something special was set in motion when Van der Burgh and Le Clos tasted success at the Olympics last year, and the most recent showing at the world championships will confirm that this was no fluke. The SA golden boys are here to stay and, especially with regards to Le Clos, they will be the swimmers to beat in their events in the run-up to the next Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Le Clos has long been spoken of as the next big thing in SA swimming. If you had asked his coaches about their expectations for him before last year’s Olympics, they would have told you that to win a medal would be a bonus. There is still a sense among the SA contingent that as well as Le Clos has done in recent months, the best is yet to come.

Le Clos has already garnered a strong following. He surprised a few people in London with his strong, come-from-behind finishes, and in Barcelona he raised a few eyebrows with his tendency to look up between strokes. The experts say this movement slows a swimmer down, adding split seconds to his finishing time.

The man himself has explained that he needed to see where he was in relation to his opponents. It may come across as a bit cheeky, but it confirms what his coaches said ahead of the Olympics last year: Le Clos is not even close to his full potential. He will only get stronger and faster.

Van der Burgh will target 2016 as his swan song, while Le Clos will view those games as a chance to dominate and establish himself as the pre-eminent competitor in men’s swimming.

These are exciting times, and it’s encouraging to think that there could be more success around the corner.

FM

 

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