Olympic gold medalist and world champion swimmer Chad Le Clos chatted with Markos Papadatos about winning the International Swimming League (as part of Energy Standard) and shared his plans for 2020, which include competing at the Olympic Games and releasing a new documentary.
He is South Africa’s most decorated swimmer. Le Clos served as the captain of Energy Standard, and they were the winning team of the inaugural International Swimming League (ISL). “That felt awesome. It was a long road. We have been planning the ISL for three years,” he admitted. “The ISL was such a big success. We had a bit of pressure to win since all of the top athletes were there.”
“The ISL has been a game-changer obviously because it brings all the best athletes together. That’s the main thing,” he said. “I want to be the best. That’s what I pride myself on. Competing among the top, top athletes. I am very grateful for the opportunities that I have had.”
He was the MVP winner of the European ISL derby in London. “That was very big for me,” he said. “I had wanted to win MVP for a while but I kept missed out by a couple of points. It was a special moment for me to win the 200 meter butterfly in the same lane that I had won against Michael Phelps back in 2012. It was a beautiful moment for my whole family so we were very happy.”
The 27-year-old South African swimmer praised Energy Standard General Manager James Gibson for being a “fantastic coach.” “James has been so revolutionary in my swimming career, honestly. He is such a big part of my successes,” he said.
Le Clos shared that he is excited about the upcoming 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo. “It has been an amazing start of the year,” he said. “It has been an incredible couple of weeks and I have been working really hard.”
He had nothing but the kindest remarks about his fellow South African swimmers Christopher Reid, Brad Tandy, Calvyn Justus, and Ryan Coetzee. “They are all great guys,” he said.
Each day, Le Clos is motivated by the lofty goals that he sets for himself. “My competitors motivate me. I am motivated by other people’s successes. I want to be in control of my own destiny,” he said. “Caeleb Dressel, Kristof Milak, Sarah Sjöström, and Katinka Hosszu also inspire me. I train every day with Sarah, she is an absolute beast really. I want to be the best version of myself that I can possibly be,” he added.
The Unbelievable documentary was released in the summer of 2016, and it was quite emotional. “I have a new documentary coming out soon. We have been filming it for eight months now. This one will be really close in depth, and it will be coming out in September of this year,” he said.
On the impact of technology on the sport of swimming, he said, “There has been a lot of big changes. There is more land-based training these days, where in the past, it would be about swimming laps all day. Omega has improved a lot with the timing systems since they are able to calculate times far more accurately than the naked eye.”
He listed the butterfly as his personal favorite stroke in swimming, even though it may be the most difficult. “I also do freestyle and I used to do individual medley (IM) back in the day,” he said. “Butterfly is definitely my favorite.”
For young and aspiring swimmers, he said, “Never give up. That has been my motto always. Believe in yourself wholeheartedly.”
He noted that winning the gold medal at the 2012 Olympic Games was a “career-defining moment” for him, especially when he stunned Michael Phelps for the win. Another proud moment included winning “FINA Swimmer of the Year” in 2014 and 2018 respectively. “I was very honored to win that with all the great swimmers in the world,” he said.
Le Clos is very proud of the launch of the Chad Le Clos Foundation. “It has been a dream of mine for the last six or seven years,” he said. “I want to give back. South Africa is a difficult place for some people. I started the Chad Le Clos Academy a little under two years ago in Cape Town and I launched the Chad Le Clos Foundation a couple of months ago, and we already raised over $30,000, which we have given back to the community, the kids and the next generations.”
“I want to help raise awareness on the sport of swimming and to give back to people that didn’t have the same opportunities growing up. I come from very humble beginnings so I know what it’s like to have a dream and to work hard. We are doing great work with the Chad Le Clos Foundation, which promotes water safety and drowning prevention. Swimming is a life skill and a necessity. If everybody puts their time and effort, the world will be a better place,” he elaborated.
“We have about 400 swimmers now and we are looking to find the next generation of talent,” he said, about the Chad Le Clos Academy. For more information on the Chad Le Clos Academy, visit its official website.
Regarding the title of the current chapter of his life, he said, “Redemption.” “I feel like I’ve matured a lot over the last three or four years as a man but not just as a swimmer,” he said. “It is quite liberating since I am in control of my life.”
Le Clos defined the word success as “happiness” in life. “Training, working hard and finding true happiness. What makes me happy is being on the stage, at the Olympics at the highest level, and representing my country and my team and winning gold medals. Also, there can be a victory in defeat. It’s all about giving your best performance in the pool. If I win the Olympics this year, it will be the happiest moment of my life. It will be hard to put into words and I will be grateful forever to my family and to my fans,” he said.
For his fans and supporters, he concluded, “A huge thank you. It has been an unbelievable journey. I have met so many amazing people around the world.”