Road to London: Chad le Clos

Cape Town - In the eighth in a series of Q 'n A style interviews with South African sportsmen and women ahead of the 2012 Olympic Games in London, Graeme Joffe chats to SA swimming sensation, Chad le Clos.

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Road to London: Kate Woods

Road to London: Cameron van der Burgh
Road to London: Mbulaeni Mulaudzi

Road to London: Gideon Sam

Road to London: Marcus Retief

Road to London: Freedom Chiya

Road to London: Irvette van Blerk
GRAEME JOFFE: Less than 80 days to go to the London Olympics, you must be eating, drinking, sleeping swimming right now?
CHAD LE CLOS: Ja, back after our trials, swimming 5-6km a day and by next week we are going to be hitting the 10km mark. It’s getting down to the hard grinding out part.

JOFFE: And is the training going well, you feeling good at the moment?
LE CLOS: Ja, training for me, is going great. I think even before trials I was very confident in the way, not just only me but the way the whole squad was swimming. I think our team was performing really well. We have only got two months of hard training left before we start cutting down, hard to think that it is only eight weeks of training left before the Olympics.

JOFFE: Already an amazing feat, you qualified for the London Olympics in four different disciplines, 200m butterfly, 200m individual medley, 400m individual medley, and 200m freestyle, just the 100m butterfly a question mark. It will be a first for a South African swimmer to compete in five different events and it could literally mean 15 races for you within a week in London, with heats, semi’s and finals.
LE CLOS: For sure, funny enough I just spoke to my coach about that. It is going to be very difficult. I think though the hardest part for me is actually conditioning myself, you know, preparing my mind also to swim those fifteen races because like I said, you can't exactly swim easy in the morning and in the semi to get to the final. You racing with the best in the world in each heat, so just to make the final is going to be huge. I am really looking forward to it, I am obviously very proud of my achievement and hopefully I can make the country proud.

JOFFE: Your coach, Graham Hill was quoted as saying “2016 was the focus for silverware”.  But you’ve already won gold medals at the World Champs, Commonwealth Games, All Africa Games and Youth Olympics. You must have some expectations to get a couple medals at these Olympics?
LE CLOS: 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, like 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. 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.

JOFFE: Learning more about Chad le Clos. Were you born in South Africa or Mauritius?
LE CLOS: My father was born in Mauritius and moved to SA when he was nine-years-old and he couldn’t speak a word of English. Actually, my family from the Mauritius side, is really big. My dad is one of 10 children so you must understand the support that I have (laughter) millions of aunts and uncles and cousins. Just alone at the SA trials, I had 62 people there, supporting me. And then on my mom’s side, they are South African, so I am South African.

JOFFE: So, have you chartered a plane for them for the London Olympics?
LE CLOS: I would have to fork out a lot to get that (laughter) but  my mom, my dad and younger brother are coming over. They were actually very cheeky, we booked our tickets at the beginning of the year before I qualified so we kept on making jokes, like hey, at least you guys are going, (laughter) - so at least now, I am also going.

JOFFE: What age did you start swimming?
LE CLOS: Yes, I was very young, I started swimming at the age of about eight and then when I was about 10 or 11, I started swimming competitively.

JOFFE: And then you went to Westville Boys High in Durban, did you play other sport, or was it just swimming?
LE CLOS: I played soccer up until the age of 15 but I realised swimming was going to take me a lot further than soccer would. I also played a bit of rugby at primary school and enjoyed the other sports but swimming was my passion.

JOFFE: Hobbies?
LE CLOS: Swimming obviously takes up a lot of my time, so I don’t get to do a lot of things that other 19 and 20 year olds will be able to do. So for me, I enjoy being outdoors, I enjoy going to the beach, catching a few waves on the weekend, that is definitely one of my hobbies. (laughter)  I’m also a huge PlayStation/FIFA fan. So, we usually gather on a Thursday which is usually our recovery day and eight mates come over and we play three a side, which is pretty cool.

JOFFE: Sponsor wise, do you have some big corporates behind you?
LE CLOS: You know it is very hard in a sport like swimming, in South Africa, it is very much a Cinderella sport, so for us to get sponsorships is very difficult -  most of our sponsors are international sponsors. We are obviously delighted to have them on board, I think just for us, as swimmers and Olympic athletes, I think we almost need corporate South Africa, if they could, to get more involved with us.

JOFFE: You guys certainly deserve so much more. Wishing you all the best for the London Olympic Games and congratulations again on what you have already achieved.
LE CLOS: Graeme, thank you, thank you so much.

Catch Graeme Joffe on SportsFire every Monday and Thursday at 17:30 on Radio Today, 1485am in JHB, National on DStv audio channel 169 and streaming worldwide on Follow Graeme Joffe on Twitter: @joffersmyboy

Chad Guy Bertrand le Clos, 20, is currently the Commonwealth Games champion and record holder in the 200m butterfly. He also won five medals at the 2010 Summer Youth Olympics in Singapore. Le Clos attended Westville Boys' High School in Durban, South Africa, matriculating in 2010.

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