Olympic Day: Chad Le Clos Seeking The Unconfined Joy Gold Would Bring At Tokyo 2021

Marco Alpozzi / LaPresse 26-07-2017 Budapest Sport 17mi Campionati Mondiali FINA di nuoto - Finale 200 metri Farfalla Maschile nella foto: Chad Le Clos RSA Marco Alpozzi / LaPresse 2017-07-26 Budapest Sport 17th FINA World Championships - Final - men's 200m butterfly in the photo: Chad Le Clos RSA
Chad Le Clos: Photo Courtesy: Marco Alpozzi /LaPresse

Chad Le Clos will be “the happiest person in the world” if he wins Olympic gold in Tokyo next year.

The South African is a four-time medallist over two Games and made a shuddering arrival on the global stage when he won gold at the 2012 Olympics in the 200 fly, timing his finish to perfection as he overhauled Michael Phelps at the touch.

He also took silver in the 100 fly in London before making two trips to the second step of the podium in Rio de Janeiro four years later in the 200 free and 100 fly, sharing it with Phelps and Laszlo Cseh in the latter.

On Olympic Day, Le Clos posted a throwback to his 200 fly triumph in London where he hoisted himself on the lane rope while his father Bert was shouting from the rooftops about “my beautiful boy”.

There will of course be no Olympics this year with the Games rescheduled for July 2021 in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

The delay enabled Le Clos to undergo double surgery while also playing his part in the fight against COVID-19 in South Africa by designing and distributing face masks.

He is also raising money for the Chad Le Clos Foundation whose aim is to develop swimming in the country with a focus on children from underprivileged backgrounds and also to offer assistance – financial and otherwise – to ensure swimmers reach their potential.

Looking ahead to his third Games, the four-time world champion says that winning a title next year would bring unparalleled joy to him and the Le Clos family.

He told Swimming World:

“If I win a gold medal next year I will be the happiest person in the world, my family would be the happiest people.

“I can honestly say this: there will be no-one in the swimming arena that will be happier for ever than me and my family.

“That’s for sure, that I can guarantee you.”

Photo Courtesy: Joao Marc Bosch

While Le Clos admits any cancellation of Tokyo 2020 – now 2021 – would be “a bitter pill to swallow”, the safety of his family takes precedence.

So too is there perspective offered by his experiences in his home-town of Durban when he was confronted by the brutal reality of hunger and poverty.

He said:

“The Olympics got postponed – some people were crying about it, it’s the end of the world – I’m like guys, you don’t know what it’s like to suffer properly.

“So rather just keep quiet about that.”

Le Clos took double bronze at last year’s World Championships in Gwangju, South Korea, as Caeleb Dressel and Kristof Milak won gold in the 100 and 200 fly respectively, both lowering iconic world records set by Phelps in 2009.

Dressel is 23 and Milak just 20 while Le Clos will be 29 come Tokyo – the implications of which have not passed him by.

Gian Mattia D'Alberto / lapresse 26-07-2017 Budapest sport 17mi Campionati Mondiali FINA di nuoto nella foto: Chad Le Cos RSA, oro 200 farfalla, Laszlo Cseh HUN Argento Gian Mattia D'Alberto / lapresse 2017-07-26 Budapest 17th FINA World Championships in the photo: Chad Le Clos RSA, gold 200 fly, Laszlo Cseh HUN, silver

Photo Courtesy: Gian Mattia D’Alberto /LaPresse

“(I’ve got) two more Olympics maybe.

“There are some young kids out there who have three or four more Olympics and I think it would just be a shame if it was cancelled.

“The fact it’s postponed doesn’t make any difference, it’s fine for me. I’m just going to train harder now, I can just get better.

“I’m getting younger they are getting older – ha ha!

“I am in good spirits about it because at the end of the day I prepare every time to race.

“To go to war every time. It’s as simple as that.

“If we have to race in two months’ time and I have a month’s training, it is what it is, I’m not going to cry about it.

“It doesn’t change my approach, it doesn’t change my mentality, I just know that I have more time now, it’s perfect.

“I am still going to be focusing on the 200 butterfy, 200 free, 100 fly: I’ll train for the 100 free and see what happens.

“I am a very young 28 – my career is definitely not coming to the end by any means after next year.

“There is a lot for me to swim for outside the Olympics: the ISL (International Swimming League) has given a lot of hope to everyone, to me. Winning that ISL was hugely motivating for me and a lot of other athletes – let’s say other, not older athletes.”