The year of Chad
Chad le Clos recalls the past year as a golden one.
The 20-year-old picked the moment when he outclassed Michael Phelps in the 200m butterfly Olympic final as his highlight of 2012.
The story of Le Clos reads like a fairy tale.
He spoke of how, as a teenager, he spent many hours watching the videos of his American idol, Phelps.
Beating the Olympic Games’ most decorated swimmer in history was the moment that changed it all for Le Clos.
And he finished just behind Phelps in the 100m butterfly to earn a silver.
“This year was a golden year for me, my family and my country,” he told City Press this week.
“Standing on the podium singing the national anthem during the 200m butterfly medal ceremony was my highlight.”
The making of Le Clos gathered momentum about 13 months ago when he picked up 35 medals – topped with a $100 000 (R855 850) winner’s purse – during the seven-meet series of the 2011 Fina Swimming World Cup.
It was the type of performance that made Le Clos almost a certainty for a medal at London 2012.
Even Cameron van der Burgh, the man who won Team SA’s first medal at the Games – a gold in the 100m breaststroke in a world record time – was overshadowed by Le Clos’ moment of brilliance.
The 1:52.96 he clocked on that memorable night of July 28 at the Aquatics Centre in London catapulted Le Clos to number one in world swimming’s rankings (long course).
He is ranked fourth in the 100m butterfly.
The former Westville Boys’ High pupil, fresh from the short course championships in Turkey this week, said he was currently nursing a shoulder injury and was hoping to start training before the new year.
The same injury forced him to pull out of the 200m butterfly at the recent Istanbul event.
But the gold medal he clinched in the 100m was enough to preserve what was indeed a “golden year” for a lad whose former football team-mates nicknamed him “Touch” (a touch of blonde hair runs down his forehead).