JOHANNESBURG – Chad le Clos’ record-breaking bid at the Commonwealth Games has been given a slight boost thanks to a change to the programme at 2018 Gold Coast which kicks off tomorrow.
The London 2012 Olympic gold medallist is aiming to become the most decorated swimmer at the Commonwealth Games where he hopes to extend his total to 18 or more. He has already won 12 medals over two editions of the quadrennial showpiece.
Although he had entered for five individual events, he had not planned on swimming the 100m freestyle as it would have jeopardised his chances at gold in his pet 200m butterfly event.
“The programme changed, and I also qualified for the 100m freestyle, I always enter in case of stuff like this, I didn’t know the programme changed about a month ago,” Le Clos said.
“I wasn’t actually preparing for the 100m freestyle at all, but they changed it around, so the 200m ‘fly comes before the 100m freestyle. The reasoning was I wasn’t going to swim the 100m freestyle because it usually comes before but now for some reason it comes 45 minutes afterwards which suits me perfectly.”
Briton Mich Gault and Phillip Adams of Australia, both shooters, are the joint most decorated athletes at the Games with the 18 medals they have each won over six editions.
Le Clos is also entered the 4x100m, 4x200m freestyle and 4x100m medley relays which could see him reach the milestone.
The South African will be targeting a clean sweep of the butterfly events - the 50m, 100m and 200m - while also aiming for a 200m freestyle medal.
“I am definitely going to be doing the 100m freestyle, I’ve always wanted to swim the 100m freestyle final against top opposition, shaven, tapered and rested,” Le Clos said. “This is actually the first time I’m doing that ever, so I am hoping to get challenge for the podium.”
While Le Clos is considered one of the greatest butterfly swimmers of all time, he has been untested in the 100m freestyle at a major championship.
His personal best 100m freestyle time is the 48.16 seconds he clocked at the French leg of the 2015 FINA Swimming World Cup. He would have to get close to his PB to challenge for a medal going up against a quality Australian contingent lead by Kyle Chalmers, who clocked the exact same time at their trials in February.
Meanwhile, London 2012 Olympic champion Cameron van der Burgh will be looking to bow out of his final Commonwealth Games with a bang.
Van der Burgh has won two consecutive 50m breaststroke gold medals at the two previous Games and a third would be the cherry on top of a stellar run since Delhi 2010 where he also won the 100m title.
“This is going to be a special one to me, it is going to be my last Commonwealth Games before I probably retire after Tokyo,” Van der Burgh said.
“So, I am taking this one with quite a bit of seriousness but also enjoyment, just taking in the team environment. I am looking forward to just seeing the South African flag raised and singing the anthem one last time.”
Van der Burgh said he had a special place in his heart reserved for the Games as it boosted his confidence ahead of the London Olympics.
“This is my third one (Commonwealth Games) which is very exciting. But looking back to Delhi, it was one of the most exciting Games as well because it is a little bit more relaxing compared to the Olympic Games,” he said.
“It is a place where you can really form a nice foundation moving forward to the next Olympic Games.
“Twenty-ten really helped me to springboard my career by winning two gold medals at that Games heading to London where I eventually got the gold.”
Van der Burgh will face some serious opposition in his medal-winning bid with the Olympic champion and world record-holder Adam Peaty of England standing in his way.
The South African conceded his 100m breaststroke title to Peaty at Glasgow 2014 but managed to beat the Briton to the wall in the 50m event.