'Healing' Le Clos: Health more important than Olympic gold

Chad le Clos (Getty Images)
Chad le Clos (Getty Images)

It's been an unsettling few days for South African swimmer Chad le Clos who is currently recuperating after undergoing two surgeries last week. 

Le Clos, who is South Africa's most decorated Olympian of all time, will be out of action for between 4-6 weeks.

With all swimming meets suspended and the 2020 Olympic Games postponed, Le Clos had a recurring injury on his mind.

"I've been having abdominal pain for as long as I know ... I went to a urologist about two years ago and he basically said if I don't have the (varicocele) surgery, I won't be able to have children," he told Sport24 in a Zoom interview on Thursday.

"He told me not to stress and gave me a time frame to do it... I've been putting off this surgery for 18 months."

Then Le Clos found out that he had a gangrene infection and with consultation from his coach and family, he had both surgeries at once. 

"It all happened pretty quickly, I had a last minute appointment on the Friday (1 May) and had two surgeons doing both operations in one sitting," said the 28-year-old.

"During the lockdown, I haven't had time to train and I thought it'll be a good time to do it now since I'm not doing anything for a month.

"My doctor told me if I hadn't taken it (gangrene) out, it would've exploded and I would've be out for five months. So it was actually a blessing in disguise. I'm good although it was pretty painful... I've been struggling to sit up but I'm getting stronger."

This year's Olympic Games in Tokyo has been rescheduled and will now be held between 23 July-8 August, 2021.

Le Clos expressed his disappointment in the postponement, but welcomed the decision stating that his "family's safety is more important".

"Of cause I'm a little sad that the Olympics didn't happen this year, I wouldn't of had these surgeries," said Le Clos, who is currently in lockdown in Durban.

"A lot of people will be rattled and unhappy with the decision. Yes, sport is amazing, but human life is much more important."

"Don't get me wrong, the Olympics is everything to me. I would absolutely do anything to win a gold medal, but the safety of my family is more important."

Le Clos stated that although it's easier to look at the negatives, there were many more positives to this year's Olympic postponement.

"It's complicated because yes, in a year's time I will be older, but I also see it as a positive because I get to train an extra 12 months, get stronger and gain more experience," he said.

Just days before the International Olympic Committee confirmed that this year's Games would be moving, Le Clos was training with his team, Energy Standard, in Turkey.

Le Clos had 36 hours to pack up his belongings and take the next flight back home.

Le Clos revealed that once the travel ban is lifted, he needs to travel back to Turkey to train with his team.

"We don't have a national training centre (in South Africa) ... we train and swim with our own coaches and kind of just come all together before the Olympics," he continued.

"My goal was always to train in South Africa because I love being home with my family. The only problem is that we don't have the facilities... Would I love to stay in South Africa? Yes but I still need to go back to Turkey to my team and to train."

Le Clos has won four Olympic medals (one gold and three silver) to date, which include, famously, a gold medal in the 200m butterfly in 2012 when he out-touched American legend Michael Phelps.

READ | Le Clos takes salary cut to help struggling swimmers

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