CAPE TOWN: “Today is not just a big day in South African swimming, but a big day in South African sport,” says South Africa’s global swimming sensation Chad le Clos.
Fresh from returning from the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast in Australia, where he added three further gold medals to his growing tally, Le Clos had his “dream come true” on Friday when he opened the first CLeC Academy in Cape Town.
The structured and world-class CLeC Academy programme will ensure that young swimmers enjoy the learning experience and remain in the sport for as long as possible, while focusing on stroke development and fitness for swimmers aged five through to adults.
“This is a dream come true. Honestly, it has been five years in the making, especially the last 18 months. Big thanks to the team, and we finally made it, it is a dream come true,” Le Clos, 25, told the media with his proud father Bert le Clos looking on.
“There was so much emotion this last couple of months. Not just for me, but for South Africa. We had a great Commonwealth Games. I am very humbled to be here. Just to see my family name on the wall, the Academy up in lights, it is a beautiful day for me.”
Le Clos, a four-time Olympic medallist and multiple world record holder, wants to provide the platform to “create the next generation of champions.”
“I want to start at grassroots levels because you can’t make a champion from a big age. It is about creating a better opportunity because lots of kids get lost to the system here in South Africa. I just want to keep them going and be the best they can be," he said.
“We want to be a tight-knit family and we want to grow the sport. Today is not just a big day in South African swimming, but a big day in South African sport. We are going to revolutionise swimming and create the next generation of champions.”
Le Clos stressed that he has absolute faith in his CLeC Academy coaching team, but indicated that he would like to be personally involved in the coaching when his hectic schedule allows. However, this is by no means the beginning of the end for Le Clos as he still has major goals to achieve in the pool.
“A lot of people do this at the end of the career, but I am in my prime and I believe it is perfect timing. I still have a lot more years ahead. My goal is to for someone to say ‘Chad Le Clos helped me reach my dreams’. Whether that’s an Olympic gold medal or captain of the high school house team. Just be the best you can be.
“I am very hungry. When I never got that gold medal in Rio (2014), it lit a fire in my belly. I believe Tokyo 2020 will be the highlight of my life – not even my career. I am working very hard towards that. I am by no means resting on my laurels. I am not saying am I going to win, but I am going to be the best Chad le Clos I can be.”