JOHANNESBURG – Chad le Clos will be looking to add to his four titles at the global aquatic showpiece sixth Fina World Long-Course Championships currently underway in Gwangju, South Korea,
Le Clos will be spearheading an 18-member team that is equally represented between men and women. It will also be the first time South Africa will not be able to count on prolific medal-winner Cameron van Burgh following his retirement from international swimming last year.
Instead, South Africa will have high hopes for Commonwealth Games double gold medallist Tatjana Schoenmaker, who will be making her debut at the senior world championships.
Le Clos will be looking to retain his 200m butterfly title and reclaim his supremacy in the 100m event despite a herky-jerky build-up to the championships.
“It has been a very difficult year for me, I have been sick three times where I have been on antibiotics two or three times this year already,” Le Clos said.
“Worst of all, my groin injury came back, and I have been nursing that. But in saying that I am as prepared as I can be. I’ve been working hard, and I’ve been able to do the mileage and hard training.”
In 2017, Le Clos made stunning comeback reclaiming his 200m butterfly beating defending champion and local hero Laszlo Cseh to the wall. Le Clos’ winning time of 1:53.33 was his fastest time since he set the South African and continental record at the London Olympics Games.
His bid for his second 100-200m butterfly double gold went up in smoke when he failed to qualify for Saturday’s 100m final.
“I feel very excited about the world championships, my focus will be the Olympics,” Le Clos said.
“I have challenging competition, so it is not going to be a walk in the park, but hopefully I can get a couple of medals and hopefully gold along the way.
“It has been a challenging year outside the pool with illness and injuries.”
Le Clos will have his work cut out in the 100m butterfly where he will go up against defending American champion Caeleb Dressel, who boasts the second-fastest time ever in the event.
Schoenmaker will be buoyed by her 100-200m breaststroke double gold from the recent World Student Games in Naples.
Her 100m breaststroke semi-final time of 1:06.32 from Naples ranks her fourth in the world going into the global championships. Her season’s best 2:22.92 in the 200m breaststroke ranks her ninth.
She will be joined by Tayla Lovemore, who also won gold in the 50m and 100m butterfly at the Student Games.
The South Africa team is:
Men: Alaric Basson, Ayrton Sweeney, Bradley Tandy, Chad le Clos, Christopher Reid, Eben Vorster, Michael Houlie, Ryan Coetzee, Zane Waddell.
Women: Dune Coetzee, Emma Chelius, Erin Gallagher, Kaylene Corbett, Mariella Venter, Nathania van Niekerk, Rebecca Meder, Tatjana Schoenmaker, Tayla Lovemore.@ockertde