Chad: ‘You guys make me proud …’

2012-08-10 00:00

TEENAGE girls screamed, cellphones flashed and family members cried as Chad le Clos arrived at King Shaka International Airport yesterday.

“Wow, I don’t even know where to start,” was all the 20-year-old could muster before a roar from hundreds of fans, friends and supporters brought proceedings to a halt for what seemed like an eternity. “I’d like to start by saying ‘happy Women’s Day’ to all the ladies out there.”

If the teenage girls weren’t smitten by Le Clos before, they were now.

“People say I made history by beating Michael Phelps, but today you guys in Durban have made history for me,” he continued. “You guys have made me so proud to be South African.”

The politicians said their bit, but it was all about Le Clos, and it was quite remarkable that a crowd of so many people kept that quiet while he spoke — as if they had been waiting weeks to hear his words.

“This journey didn’t happen overnight; it has been 12 years in the making, and I couldn’t have done it without my coach Graham Hill,” said Le Clos. “My family has been my support base, and I really want to thank my mom, dad, brothers Jordan and Justin and my sister Bianca.”

Bianca Matos, Chad’s sister, was awestruck by the occasion. “This is absolutely crazy, I can’t believe it,” she said, wide-eyed.

After all of the speeches, Le Clos was mobbed by young and old as he began signing autographs and posing for photographs.

But Chad wasn’t the only celebrity landing at King Shaka yesterday.

After his flight was delayed by 20 minutes, Chad’s dad, Bert, accompanied by his wife, Geraldine, landed on another flight and embraced his son.

Marching towards the stage, Bert was in a jovial mood.

“Unbelieveable!” he growled, making reference to his now famous BBC interview after Chad’s gold medal. “I don’t know what’s for dinner tonight, but I know I’m not cooking.”

After climbing into a new Golf 6 Cabriolet, given to him by his sponsors, Chad returned home where a home-cooked meal courtesy of Bianca was waiting to be enjoyed by family and close friends.

But not before he had joined in a Westville Boys’ High war cry, signed yet more autographs and posed for more photos.

In his reaction, Hill said: “It is every coach’s dream to coach an Olympic gold medallist. This has been a long journey.”

Maritzburgers will have their chance to welcome back their hero soon. Le Clos will be competing at the South African short course championships from next Thursday.

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