Dark horse Chad le Clos could do something ‘unbelievable’ at the Olympics
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CAPE TOWN - CHAD le Clos is still hungry to compete for more accolades.
Having had a celebrated career, it would have been easy for Chad le Clos to get out of the pool after the 2016 Rio Olympics.
After a gold and silver at the 2012 London Games, he went on to claim two more silver medals in Brazil to become South Africa’s most decorated Olympian with four medals.
Now 29, Le Clos is as fiery a competitor as you can get, though, and he is still hungry to compete for more accolades at the Tokyo Olympics in the 100 and 200m butterfly.
He begins his campaign in the 200m today (heat five at 12.30pm), with the semi-finals tomorrow (4.35 and 4.41am) and the final on Wednesday (3.49am).
Le Clos will contest 100m butterfly competition on Thursday (heat six at 12.54pm), with the semi-finals on Friday and final on Saturday.
His best times in both events this year are not in the top echelons of the world list, as he comes in at 40th in the 200m (1:55.63) and outside the leading 100 (51.87) in the 100m.
Hungary’s Kristof Milak is the hot favourite for the gold medal in the 200m (1:51.10 this year), with American Caeleb Dressel (49.76 in 2021) the leader in the 100m.
But the South African star hasn’t been training and racing as much as he would’ve liked over the last 12 months due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which has restricted travelling overseas.
Le Clos was given extra motivation a few days ago when he was the joint flag-bearer for SA at the opening ceremony – along with hockey goalkeeper Phumelela Mbande.
“It is a huge thing, this is special for me, and it means a lot to my family and me. Just being here is a huge honour after everything that has happened,” Le Clos told the Tokyo Olympics website.
“This feels like a gold medal for me, to represent my country at that stage.
“I feel a bit like (Springbok captain) Siya Kolisi. My dad (Bert) burst into tears when I told him. It is a huge thing, and I am very proud to not only represent swimming, but the whole country at this year’s Olympics.
“I hope South Africans can see the pride in all of us and take inspiration.”
Le Clos wants another gold medal – in fact, any colour will do. He knows he will be up against it in both the 100m and 200m, but can he produce another “Unbelievable” moment in Tokyo.
“It’s going to be a huge challenge – I’ll be a huge underdog at the Olympics,” Le Clos told BBC Sport recently.
“I’m racing two guys (Kristof and Celeb Dressel) who have both broken (Michael) Phelps’ world records.
“Everyone’s talking about Milak – how fast he’s going to go in the 200m fly? And Caeleb – how much he is going to win by? I’m just the dark horse.
“I’ve been doing this for a long time and it’s tough to stay on top, but I believe I’m mentally the strongest athlete out there.
“I’m not going to make any predictions, but I do believe that I’ll be in the mix for medals.”