Chad Le Clos Gets Close-Up View of Corona Poverty & Struggle On A Trip To Local Store

Chad Le Clos
Chad Le Clos - Photo Courtesy: Gian Mattia D'Alberto /LaPresse

Chad Le Clos was confronted with the brutal reality of life for the poor during the pandemic in South Africa when a trip to the local grocery store opened his eyes to the desperation that hunger and poverty can bring.

The four-time Olympic medalist was walking with his girlfriend Jeanni Mulder in Durban to buy provisions when a man jumped out at him and asked if Le Clos had any money.

Three more people came behind them and surrounded, outnumbered and on a road without people or traffic with South Africa in its strictest stage of lockdown, it was an uncomfortable situation to say the least.

Le Clos, while admitting the situation appeared “quite scary,” remained calm and realized the folks just wanted help and food.

That followed an similar experience days earlier when he came out of a shop to see a 15-strong group of people who had lost their jobs because of the coronavirus.

He was asked: “‘Hey boss, please can I have some food?” and he returned to the store to buy bread, milk and coca-cola, at a cost to him of US$7 at most.

Le Clos recalled the incidents hoping to shine a light on the effect of the pandemic on those who can least afford it in his native South Africa.

He told Swimming World:

“That was when I realized how bad it was because I’d been watching the news and stuff but I hadn’t seen it for real.

“It’s quite bad in South Africa at the moment in the sense that poor people are getting absolutely destroyed.

“Because we have no economy now because there’s no work, the poorer people that don’t have any cash flow are struggling big time.”

Chad le Clos arena

Chad Le Clos – Photo Courtesy: arena and La Presse

He added:

“It’s an eye-opener to see how desperate it is at the moment.

“It’s very sad because I’ve got a home, my family, we’ve got food. I’m not training or anything but I’m still okay but honestly it’s chaos in the poorer communities.

“I only saw this one or two weeks ago for the first time: before that I hadn’t really seen the effects that it’s had on the country.”

Le Clos was at his Energy Standard training base in Gloria, Turkey, when he had to return to Cape Town at very short notice in the middle of March.

On the horizon had been the hard yards of training in April, May and June ahead of his third Olympics in Tokyo in July.

That, of course, was not to be this year with the Games postponed until 2021.

But having witnessed poverty and desperation, Le Clos knows that is not the be all and end all in life.

He has implored people to donate bread and milk can they afford to do so while the 28-year-old himself, along with brother Jordan, has been helping design, distribute and promote face masks.

He continued:

“Puts it in perspective, absolutely.

“For me, if the Olympics were cancelled it would be a hard pill to swallow for me.

“Then you look at the other side at people that can’t eat, that can’t feed their young children, that’s a crying shame.

“If you can just help out a little bit it will make your community and your place that you’re at a better place.

“I am not condoning anything that is going on or the crime that has happened but sometimes you force people’s hands.”

In the photo: Chad Le Close (RSA) Photo Rafael Domeyko / LaPresse

Photo Courtesy: Rafael Domeyko / LaPresse

Le Clos has also been personally touched by the ripple effect of the coronavirus.

His father Bert’s cousin Didier ‘DJ’ Garioch died of throat cancer in early May – at the same time that Le Clos was undergoing surgery at Hillcrest Hospital, Durban.

Covid-19 meant the family could not travel from Durban to Cape Town where hospital visits were severely restricted.

Chad Le Clos said:

“He was such a warrior – a real, real warrior – such a big supporter of me.

“He had bad throat cancer for four years. The doctors said he wouldn’t last six months in 2016 – before the Olympics – and he lasted this long so it is just sad that he had to pass away by himself in the hospital because we weren’t allowed to see him because of the covid. It has been a sad time for everyone, especially my dad.

“We were very close. Just a warrior you know. He refused to quit, absolute warrior. It was just sad the way it all went down.

“I just feel like he didn’t deserve that ending, you know what I mean? Warriors like that don’t deserve to go down like that, it’s just sad.

“His father is 97 and he had to bury his son. He’s a young lad, he’s 57 and his father is 97 so they have great genes in the family.

“Imagine how sad that is – his father has to say goodbye to his youngest son.”

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2 years ago

A great story and an eye-opening one. It’s great to read how a little compassionate action can make such a difference to so many other people. May his example shine.