Chad le Clos

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“There are many ways of thinking about how I won that gold, and when I watch that race, even now… I also shed a tear thinking about what went into that race and what it meant to me.”

Chad le Clos was born in Durban, South Africa. le Clos began his competitive swimming career at the age of 10.

At the age of 18 the South African showed the world the kind of potential he had and one day would fulfill.

2010 Youth Olympic Games

In 2010 le Clos attended the Youth Olympic Games in Singapore and took home five medals. He won the 200 IM, finished second in the 100 and 200 butterfly as well as the 400 freestyle and was part of the South African 4 x 100 freestyle relay that collected the bronze.

2010 Commonwealth Games

That same year he attended the Commonwealth Games in Delhi. After his performances in Singapore his success at the games was not surprising. In Delhi he won the 200 butterfly and the 400 IM in games record times. He was also part of the men’s 4 x 100 medley relay which won the silver and the 4 x 200 freestyle relay which took the bronze.

To cap off his breakout season le Clos took the gold in the men’s 200 butterfly at the Short Course World Championships in Dubai.

2011 World Championships

At the 2011 World Championships in Shanghai le Clos posted a best time in the 200 butterfly, but finished fifth in the final. Although he did not achieve the placing he would have liked in Shanghai an extremely motivated le Clos took the overall World Cup title.

2012 Olympic Games

The 2012 Olympic Games was le Clos’ coming out party. His first event in London was the 400 IM where he finished fifth. His second event is when he let the world know exactly who he was.

At the age of 20 le Clos stood up on the blocks at the Olympic Games facing his childhood idol Michael Phelps in the 200 butterfly. Going into the final 50 meters le Clos trailed Phelps by 58 one-hundredths of a second, by the end of the race le Clos got his hand on the wall five one-hundredths of a second before Phelps.

After the race le Clos spoke about his desire to win a medal, but also of how he wanted to do right by his idol, “I just kept thinking I wanted to be up there on that podium,” said le Clos.

“I wanted to be in that race with him. I wanted to give him a run for his money. I wanted to make him proud.”

Although he qualified for the 200 IM final he decided to scratch the event to focus on the 100 butterfly, a race where he would face off with Phelps once again. This time it was Phelps who got the better of the South African taking the gold in the event. le Clos tied Russian Yevgeny Korotyshkin for the silver.

le Clos did not take a rest after the Olympics winning the 100 butterfly and earning silver in the 50 butterfly at the Short Course World Championships in Istanbul.

2013 World Championships

le Clos had another great year in 2013. At the World Championships in Barcelona he won gold in both the 100 and 200 butterfly. Only a few days later he went on to set a new world record in the short course 200 butterfly at a World Cup event in Eindhoven. That same November he broke his own world record at another World Cup event in Singapore.

Later that month he would wrap up his second World Cup title.

2014 Commonwealth Games

In 2014 le Clos attending the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, but opted out of the Pan Pacific Championships. At the Commonwealth Games he earned six medals; gold in the 100 and 200 butterfly, silver in the 4 x 100 freestyle and bronze in the 50 butterfly, 200 IM and 4 x 100 medley relay.

In November le Clos took his third World Cup title. In December he put on a show at the Short Course World Championships in Doha winning the 50, 100 and 200 butterfly along with the 200 freestyle. He set a new world record in the 100 butterfly along with two championship records in both the 50 and 100 butterfly.

2015 World Championships

At the 2015 World Championships in Kazan, le Clos made headlines for both his antics and performance. le Clos racked up medals in his signature butterfly events, but surprised the crowd a bit when he snuck into the final of the 200 freestyle. After qualifying fourth in the semi-final of the 200 free, he moved to the championships final, which including American Ryan Lochte and China’s Sun Yang. le Clos had a nicely split race, but couldn’t hang on the last 50 meters to medal. Although he only added .5 seconds from the semi-final, le Clos dropped to finish sixth overall.

In the 100 fly le Clos was led by American Tom Shields out of the semi-final. Going into the championship final ranked third in a heat without Michael Phelps, le Clos made history. le Clos took out the first 50 meters mid-pack, led by Joseph Schooling, but le Clos surged ahead in the last 50 to out-split Schooling 26.84 to 27.43. le Clos took the gold with Laszlo Cseh and Schooling going 2-3. All three men were under 51.0 seconds, which was officially the fastest 100 fly in textile suit history. Even Schooling’s third-place finish would’ve won the 2013 World Championships and the 2012 Olympics.

le Clos, with the versatility to swim the sprint and mid-distance events, took on the 200 fly with an expectation to win gold. By the first 100 meters of the race le Clos led, but was nearly neck-and-neck with Cseh from Hungary. Cseh took off in the third 50, splitting 29.33 to le Clos’ 30.20, overtaking le Clos. The South African turned on the speed too late in the last 50 meters, and was out-touched by Cseh for the gold, giving le Clos his first silver medal in a World Championship competition.

Post World Championships le Clos held the world’s fastest time in the 100-meter fly and the no. two time in the distance. He immediately put comments in the media about Michael Phelps, who was competing at the U.S. National Championships in San Antonio.

This feud had been brewing for a while when back in May 2015, Phelps spoke to the media about how slow the 200 fly had been over the past few years (Phelps recently put the 200 fly back in his event lineup). When le Clos put up his 100 fly time and won gold he said, “I just did a [100m butterfly] time that [Phelps] hasn’t done in four years, so he can keep quiet now.” The media had a field day with le Clos’ comments, but later in the week Phelps made his own statement by posting the world’s fastest time in the 100 fly with a 51.17. And in reaction to this, le Clos then enlightened the feud going into Rio 2016: “Look, I don’t want to say it’s easy to swim by yourself [against lesser competition at the U.S. Championships than at Worlds], but it’s a lot harder when you know Chad le Clos is coming back at you the last 50 meters. That’s what he’s got to think about really.”

2016

25 days away from the start of the 2016 Olympic Games, Chad le Clos confirmed both of parents are currently fighting cancer.

Chad le Clos statement, released July 11, 2016:  

The Rio Olympics are just a few weeks away but I can confirm that both my parents are fighting cancer.

My Mum Geraldine has breast cancer which has returned since her remission in 2010. She has recently undergone a double mastectomy and is now having chemo. My Dad Bert developed prostate cancer and has also undergone an operation in late June.

It has not been an easy time but I am training hard for Rio. More than anything else I want them to win their battles. I also hope that they will be in Rio.

I would ask my friends in the media to respect their recovery. I will also not be doing any media prior to Rio.

2016 Rio Olympics

Le Clos had an incredibly brave swim in the 200 meter freestyle in Rio, blasting off the blocks and pulling ahead of the field in the first 25 meters. By the first turn he was over a second ahead of second place. The field started to gain on him in the last half of the race, but he held on to take silver behing Sun Yang of China in 1:45.20.

The 200 meter butterfly saw le Clos pitted against Phelps. Le Clos pulled out all the tricks to try and psych Phelps out, who was having none of it. In the ready room before the semi final, le Clos was seen getting in Phelps’ face with some Muhammad Ali moves, but Phelps looked on unfazed. In the final, le Clos turned at the halfway mark just behind Phelps. But as the final 50 unfolded, Japan’s Masato Sakai and Hungary’s Tamas Kenderesi overtook le Clos leaving the defending champion outside the medal positions. He finished 4th in 1:54.06.

The butterfly beef between le Clos and Phelps ended with the pair sharing the same spot on the podium as well as Laszlo Cseh. In a three-way tie for silver in the 100 meter butterfly, the trio touched in 51.14 behind Singapore’s Joseph Schooling.

International Medals

Place Event Year Meet
Gold 200 Fly 2012 Olympic Games
Silver 100 Fly 2012 Olympic Games
Silver 200 Free 2016 Olympic Games
Silver 100 Fly 2016 Olympic Games
Gold 100 Fly 2013 World Championships
Gold 200 Fly 2013 World Championships
Gold 200 Fly 2010 Short Course World Championships
Gold 100 Fly 2012 Short Course World Championships
Gold 50 Fly 2014 Short Course World Championships
Gold 100 Fly 2014 Short Course World Championships
Gold 200 Fly 2014 Short Course World Championships
Gold 200 Free 2014 Short Course World Championships
Silver 50 Fly 2012 Short Course World Championships
Gold 400 I.M. 2010 Commonwealth Games
Gold 200 Fly 2010 Commonwealth Games
Gold 100 Fly 2014 Commonwealth Games
Gold 200 Fly 2014 Commonwealth Games
Silver 50 Fly 2014 Commonwealth Games
Silver 200 I.M. 2014 Commonwealth Games

Best Times

Course Event Time Date Meet
scm 50 Fly 21.95 12/06/14 2014 FINA Short Course World Championships
Doha, Qatar
scm 100 Fly 48.44 12/04/14 2014 FINA Short Course World Championships
Doha, Qatar
scm 200 Fly 1:48.56 11/05/13 2013 FINA World Cup
Singapore
scm 200 IM 1:51.56 08/31/14 2014 FINA World Cup
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
scm 400 IM 3:59.23 11/11/13 2013 FINA World Cup
Tokyo, Japan
lcm 50 Fly 23.29 07/24/14 2014 Commonwealth Games
Glasgow, Scotland
lcm 100 Fly 50.56 08/08/15 2015 World Championships
Kazan, Russia
lcm 200 Fly 1:52.96 07/28/12 2012 Olympic Games
London, England
lcm 200 IM 1:57.94 04/07/14 2014 South African Nationals
Johannesburg, South Africa
lcm 400 IM 4:12.24 07/28/12 2012 Olympic Games
London, England
lcm 100 Free 48.16 08/11/15 2015 FINA World Cup
Moscow, Russia
lcm 200 Free 1:45.20 08/08/16 2016 Olympic Games
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil