Golden Chad

The Aquatics Centre always attracts eager crowds at the Olympics.

In Munich in 1972, over an eight day period, Mark ‘the Shark’ Spitz of the USA entered seven events in the pool. Incredibly he won them all, and broke a record in all of his final events. As a Jewish athlete, he was evacuated from the Olympic Village during the terrorist raid on the Israeli team, and he still managed to stay focused. He is revered as the greatest Jewish athlete ever and in the 1970s, the best selling poster in the US was of Spitz in his swimming trunks with his 7 medals around his neck. In total, he set 33 world records. A true Olympian!

Then Beijing in 2008…Mr Michael Phelps won eight golds in the pool to break Spitz’s record. The man has super-human talent and is known for eating 12,000 calories a day, which includes a five-egg omlette, porridge, coffee, pasta, ham, pizza and 2,000 calories of energy drinks. “Eat, sleep, swim”, he says, “that’s all I can do.”

But London 2012 was going to put Team SA’s Chad le Clos on the swimming map. He swam into history when he beat Mr Phelps in the 200m butterfly final by less than a tenth of a second. It was so exciting to watch him win and even more exciting to see him come in second in the 100m butterfly final.

When asked about his success, Chad said that his dad has always said ‘ live your dreams and never give up’.

“My dream was to make an Olympic final. I dreamt about it but never thought I’d win… I’m so very happy to have my family in my corner for support.”

His father’s interview on BBC was a refreshing example of a proud parent and has gone viral! His use of the word ‘unbelievable’ was used more in one sentence than I think ever before.

Chad’s respect for Phelps is clear, “I watched him win six gold medals in Athens 2004 and it was such an honour to swim next to him tonight. I just wanted to try and beat him. I’ve watched all his races a million times over but now I guess I can watch my own race a bit!”

Chad le Clos is a shining light in and out of the pool, and I had the wonderful pleasure of looking after his fan mail (which started arriving within hours of his victories), and to wish this remarkable Durban lad the very best for his future – and in the words of his father Bert le Clos, I am sure it will be an unbelievable future!

Dawn Denton©

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