Chad scalps Phelps

2012-08-01 00:00

IN what is already being called one of the greatest races in Olympic history, Westville Boys’ High School old boy Chad le Clos had South Africa in a state of euphoria as he bested Michael Phelps by five one- hundredths of a second to win gold in last night’s 200 metre butterfly at the London Olympics.

“I can tell you I’ve swum that last 50 a million times and I’ve watched all his [Phelps’s] races since the 2000 Olympics,” Le Clos said after winning South Africa’s second gold medal.

“I remember how he always finished strongly and I think I felt like him. I felt like I was Phelps — I remember looking at him — he said ‘congratulations’ and told me to live and enjoy the moment.

“That coming from such a legend makes it a great honour.”

With his parents and 14-year-old brother watching him from the stands at the Olympic Park Aquatics Centre, Le Clos was a picture of disbelief when he looked up at the electronic board to find that he had beaten the greatest ever Olympic swimmer.

“They have been my biggest fans since I first made a national team. I remember them crying when I won my first junior national medal. It wasn’t even a medal, it was a ribbon,” said Le Clos of his parents.

“I didn’t think it could actually happen — I’m so proud to be there and to live my dream.”

Le Clos wasn’t the only one overwhelmed by it all.

A teary Geraldine le Clos told The Witness moments after her son’s historic victory: “We can’t believe it. It is like we are in a movie and I have to keep pinching myself — this can’t be real.

“We knew he would win gold, but we didn’t know it would be at this Olympics and against the best in the world.”

Le Clos couldn’t contain his emotion, and the innocence of youth was clear for all to see as he cried and lip-quivered his way through Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika with the gold medal around his neck in a moment that was just too much for Geraldine to handle.

“I just sobbed and sobbed the whole way through. This has always been his ultimate dream,” she said.

With celebration plans very much on the cards for Geraldine and her husband Bert — and with Chad the centre of an international media frenzy — the pair were expecting to have about 15 minutes with their son last night.

“I’m just going to hold him close and not let him go for five minutes,” Geraldine added.

“Bert and I will be going to a pub to celebrate while he [Chad] has interviews and everything.”

Chad’s 14-year-old brother, Jordan, very nearly missed out on his brother’s moment of glory.

“We had a lot of difficulty getting him a ticket and he actually sat by himself on the opposite side of the pool, but he was surrounded by people congratulating him,” said hismother.

“He was Chad’s lucky charm.”

The support for Chad back home was just as overwhelming. Over 100 of his closest friends and family, including his older siblings, Bianca and Justin, gathered at Stella Sports Club in Glenwood to watch the race.

“I phoned my mom [Geraldine] after the race and we couldn’t even talk to each other because we couldn’t stop crying,” an elated Bianca told The Witness. “This has been his only dream since he was 12 — Phelps was his idol.”

Meanwhile, Bert has become a Twitter sensation following his animated interview with the BBC after witnessing his son’s race. “Unbelievable, he’s beautiful,” growled Bert in a voice that was clearly suffering the after-effects of intense cheering.

To watch the interview with Bert le Clos click here.

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