JOHANNESBURG – Looking to cement his place as one of the world’s greatest ever butterfly swimmers Chad le Clos will be chasing his third golden treble in his favourite stroke at the World Short-Course Swimming Championships in Hangzhou, China starting today.
But Le Clos stole the headlines on the eve of the championships for joining a growing group of top swimmers speaking out against international governing body FINA.
Le Clos posted a statement on social media declaring his support for the International Swimming League (ISL) which is not affiliated to the umbrella body.
FINA last month threatened to suspend swimmers who would have competed at the ISL organisers’ inaugural meeting after the world championships, as the event was not sanctioned by the international governing body.
“I am disappointed that our sport is not open to change,” Le Clos said in a statement. “I have always supported FINA at the World Championships and the World Cups. I acknowledge the role of both in my career.
“But I - like many other athletes - am worried about the future. Outside of the Olympics and World Championships - and a few good regional/national events - swimming needs innovation.”
Le Clos’ coach Andrea Di Nino is also the technical director of the ISL, which filed a lawsuit against FINA for alleged “anti-competitive conduct”.
“We need to create different media and commercial opportunities. How many new global partners invested in our great sport in 2017 and 2018?” Le Clos continued in his statement.
“This is why I will support the International Swimming League in 2019 and beyond,” Le Clos continued in his statement.
“It will benefit swimming with a new dynamic approach. Why should athletes not shape their own series like so many other Olympic sports? This will not damage the best of the current competitions which are Federation run. Everyone in swimming should consider the future.”
Meanwhile, South Africa’s medal hopes will once again rest on the shoulders of Le Clos and Cameron van der Burgh after the country’s top female swimmer Tatjana Schoenmaker withdrew from the team.
Van der Burgh could feature at his last major swimming event for South Africa as he contemplates his future on an ongoing basis.
The Olympic gold medallist got married earlier this year and relocated to London for work signalling his transition from swimming superstar to a mere mortal with a nine to five job.
He will be looking to add more silverware to his six medals which include two gold, while Le Clos will walk onto the pool deck hoping to increase his tally of 11 medals - nine gold and two silver.
The team also includes Rio Olympian and Commonwealth Games silver medallist Brad Tandy and Ryan Coetzee.
The women’s team will be spearheaded by South African record-holder Erin Gallagher and teenage swimming sensation Rebecca Meder.
The South African team is:
Men: Ryan Coetzee, Douglas Erasmus, Chad le Clos, Ayrton Sweeney, Brad Tandy, Cameron van der Burgh.
Women: Erin Gallagher, Rebecca Meder, Emily Visagie.