The spotlight is back on Le Clos

2014-11-30 15:01

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SA’s Olympic and world champion swimmer Chad le Clos has achieved much in his young career and will be looking to add to his bulging trophy cabinet when he attends the SA Sports Awards ceremony tonight.

The modest 22-year-old downplayed being the odds-on favourite for the sports star of the year award.

Fresh from defending his Fina World Cup Series title, where he racked up 27 gold medals, Le Clos faces competition from equally accomplished sports stars for the top accolade and its R1?million prize.

Other contenders are Banyana striker Portia Modise, long jumper Khotso Mokoena, Protea cricketer AB de Villiers, Springbok loose forward Duane Vermeulen and wheelchair marathon icon Ernst van Dyk.

On paper, Le Clos seems like a shoo-in ahead of his fellow candidates, but his fate lies with the public.

“I hope for the best. To be in the company of all these guys that have been nominated means I have done myself and the country proud. They are all big names in SA sport,” he told City Press this week.

“It’s been a good year for me and I just want to keep the momentum going. I want to keep on winning and ultimately become a legend.”

The Durban-born swimmer has also been nominated for the Sportsman of the Year award, while his coach Graham Hill is a contender for the top coach accolade.

Two years ago, Le Clos clinched the top award ahead of Protea star Hashim Amla, swimmer Natalie du Toit and Olympic athletes Caster Semenya and Oscar Pistorius.

This year, Le Clos continued to endear himself to his supporters by putting in another series of record-setting shifts in the pool.

In August, he equalled Ian Thorpe’s record haul of seven Commonwealth Games medals. Le Clos won two golds, a silver and four bronzes at the Glasgow, Scotland, showpiece.

His 27 gold medals in the Fina World Cup Series – across the 50m, 100m and 200m butterfly; the 50m and 100m freestyle; and the 200m individual medley events – saw him claim an unprecedented third overall title.

He said he was currently preparing for the Fina Swimming World Championships in Doha, Qatar. The five-day event begins on Wednesday.

» The SA Sports Awards will take place at the Sandton Convention Centre, Joburg, and be televised live on SABC1 and SuperSport?4 from 8pm.

Sports star of the year nominees

Le Clos has stiff competition

Khotso Mokoena

Mokoena (28) won gold medals in the triple jump at this year’s Commonwealth Games (with a record leap of 17.35m) and African Senior Athletics Championships. He crowned his season with IAAF Diamond League honours in long jump, the first South African to achieve this feat. “Crocodile” has also been nominated for the sportsman of the year award.

Portia Modise

The Banyana Banyana striker (31) became the first African female player to reach the 100-goal milestone in international football in October. Her goals helped Banyana qualify for the African Women’s Championship in Namibia last month.

Ernst van Dyk

The wheelchair marathon star (41) narrowly missed out on a second New York title this month when he finished runner-up to Australian Kurt Fearnley. Van Dyk, who was born with no legs, captured his 10th Boston Marathon title earlier this year.

Duane Vermeulen

Vermeulen (28) was nominated for the IRB Player of the Year award following his exploits at the breakdown and his destructive ball-carrying. He was named man of the match in SA’s 27-25 victory over world champions New Zealand in October.

AB de Villiers

The Proteas ODI captain (30) won the SA Cricketer of the Year award this year. Widely regarded as the world’s best batsman, De Villiers made 12 scores of 50-plus in 12 consecutive matches and was also the fastest ODI batsman to reach 7?000 runs. His form saw him named the International Cricket Council ODI Player of the Year.

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