In an effort to clear the air in terms of the rift between South Africa Olympic gold medalist Chad Le Clos and American Olympic icon Michael Phelps, Le Clos chatted with Sport360° this week upon his arrival in Dubai for the final stop of the 2015 World Cup Series.
Related to his infamous “Phelps can keep quiet now” quote, Le Clos explains to Sport360° that “They asked me a question about Michael Phelps, he was saying some stuff about me that wasn’t very nice and I felt a bit hurt.” Trying to frame up the intention of his remark in Kazan, Le Clos further clarified that, “I didn’t want to fire back, it wasn’t like that. They just said to me ‘how do you feel about Michael saying the butterfly events are slow?’ and I said ‘look, I’ve just done a time he hasn’t done for four years and the time speaks for itself’. Then the headline was ‘Chad Le Clos tells everybody to shut up’ and then he comes along and says ‘I’ve done with trash talkers before…”
Offering further insight into just how the South African views Phelps, a swimmer who has been dominant in the pool with 22 Olympic medals, but somewhat controversial out of the pool with his 2 DUI arrests, Le Clos dissects his opinion of the American. Says Le Clos “Firstly you must listen to what I’m saying, I didn’t slate you, I’ve always said he’s the greatest of all time, I don’t take that away from him. He’s my idol. Maybe not… I look up to him in swimming terms, that’s it. But if I was as great as he was, I would conduct myself in a way children would be proud of.”
“I think people that watch me – obviously I get angry and I say some silly stuff sometimes – but you must conduct yourself in a way that other people can look up to. That’s what defines a champion, it doesn’t matter how much money you have, how many gold medals you have, you must be a true champion and I pride myself on being that, the people’s champion.”
Le Clos restated what he told the BBC last month, that he is absolutely “not afraid of Michael Phelps.” From his point of view, Le Clos feels he is “not taunting anybody. I said before that I hope he’s in good form because I want to race the best and I’m not afraid to face him one on one.”
Reflecting on his overall performance in Kazan this summer, Le Clos says, “I’m definitely not satisfied. It was a difficult World Champs for me, obviously losing the 200 fly was an eye-opener. It was my first defeat in three years, it was hard for me to take,” Le Clos said. “There’s many things I could have done differently, but you know I don’t make excuses, you win or you lose. There are many reasons why I never won that race but it’s not for me to say. It takes credit away from Laszlo who was the champion.”
Looking ahead past Dubai, Le Clos gauges his preparedness at 80% at this point in time and knows what he needs to do to be “the best Chad Le Clos” that he can. However, if he does indeed lose in Rio, expect no excuses to come from the feisty athlete. “If you look at all these other guys that make excuses when they lose ‘I had a bad start, I had a bad turn’… come on, what is this? Are we children? Didn’t your parents teach you not to say that?. I know where I am and I know who I am so I don’t need any of those guys to like me.”
Ultimately, Le Clos points to the greatest Olympian of all time as to why he even targeted butterfly as his main event. “There’s no secret why I swam butterfly, it’s because of Michael Phelps,” says Le Clos.
Ever confident, Le Clos takes pride in his work ethic and mental ferocity, saying “I want to beat the best or I want to lose to the best. I’m not going to go look for the easy route like everyone else does. For me it’s about the race, it’s not about the time, it’s not about anything else, it’s about winning that gold medal in the moment. So I believe that on the day I could beat anybody.”