JOHANNESBURG – Chad le Clos’ chances of becoming the most decorated athlete at the Commonwealth Games in April hangs in the balance.
While Le Clos has a realistic chance at adding four more to his tally in the individual events he will race at the Games, he may well miss out due to the country’s relay weaknesses.
Le Clos, who has won a total of 12 medals over two Commonwealth Games, could have had a realistic chance of reaching the 18-medal mark in only his third appearance at the multi-sport event.
Briton Mich Gault and Aussie Phillip Adams – who are shooters – are the joint most decorated athletes at the Games with the 18 medals they have each won over six editions.
South Africa will not send a 4x100m freestyle team to the Commonwealth Games for the first time since the 1998 edition in Kuala Lumpur. The South African swimming sensation is concerned that he may not be given the best opportunity to go after the record tally.
“Maybe I’m being selfish, but my legacy is on the line here… if I get six medals, I’m the best ever at 25 over three Games,” Le Clos said at the Discovery Get Active event in Cape Town.
“When the opportunity beckons, when you have the chance to break the record, you must go for it. You can’t say ‘Oh well, I’m going to wait for next year’. You don’t hold back, you go for it.
“You never know, I could break my leg tomorrow… I’ve got to just take these opportunities while I can.”
Le Clos was the fastest 100m freestyle swimmer at the trials in Durban in December, but made his intentions clear he did not want to be considered for the event to make way for another swimmer.
London 2012 Olympian Leith Shankland posted a 100m freestyle qualifying time at the trials, but finished third behind Le Clos and Calvyn Justus to lose out on selection.
The men’s 100m freestyle has been one of the weakest events for South Africa in recent years, with local swimmers battling to dip below 49 seconds in the blue riband event.
The emergence of United States-based ace Zane Waddell has slightly lifted the prospect of fielding a strong 4x100m freestyle relay team.
Waddell and SA 100m backstroke record-holder Christopher Reid could not make the trials due to their studies in the States, coupled with the costs of making the trip home.
Both swimmers would have strengthened the medley relay team along with Le Clos and 2012 Olympic breaststroke gold medallist Cameron van der Burgh.
These two swimmers may not be eligible to participate as individuals at the Games because they missed the trials.
Considering the size of the aquatics team, Swimming South Africa (SSA) have already performed wonders to convince the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) to select a larger team.
SSA chief executive Shaun Adriaanse said although the duo would have strengthened the squad, they did not meet the qualifying criteria, which required swimmers to attend the trials.
“The requirements to qualify over the years for all our teams to major championships and multi-sport events like the Olympic Games and Commonwealth Games was for swimmers to participate at the national championships,” Adriaanse said.
To highlight his desperation, Le Clos said he was willing to raise funds for swimmers to stay outside the athletes’ village if they were selected to only participate in the relay events.
“If we take our strongest team, we’re challenging for gold in those relays and it gives me a much easier time to get my target of six medals,” Le Clos said. “I’ll even go as far as to say I’ll raise the money, I’ll pay for them to come.”