Durban - Will South Africa’s swim team bring home a medal from the Olympic Games this time round?
No-one managed in Beijing 2008, but if Commonwealth champ Chad le Clos has his way, this year will be different.
After qualifying in five individual items, the 20-year-old is likely to try out in four of those and possibly also two relays, making him the first South African ever to compete in six different events at one Olympic Games. If all goes well he could be swimming a gruelling 15 races over the seven days, heats and semi-finals included.
Le Clos was exuberant after wrapping up his very successful Olympic trial week at Kings Park Aquatic Centre this weekend. “it’s been a dream of mine to go to the Olympics, and I’m so excited that now it’s a reality!”
His manager, four-time Olympian Ryk Neethling, explains why Le Clos will probably only compete in four items, rather than all five he qualified for.
“His are the most difficult items, so you want to choose the ones where he has the best chance,” says Neethling. “His strongest race is the 200m butterfly, but I reckon he’ll also get to the finals in the 200m individual medley and the 400m individual medley. And once in the final anything can happen.”
Le Clos had started the week with a bang, scoring the first spot on the SA Olympic team with his win in the distance medley, clocking a time of 4:13:86. During the week he also secured places in the 200m individual medley in 1:58:97; the 200m freestyle in 1:47:20 and the 200m butterfly with 1:55:30 - the third-fastest time in the world this year. He will also compete in the 100m butterfly off an earlier qualifying time of 52.1 reached at the African Games.
Says Neethling, “Chad not only has incredible talent, he’s hungry and willing to work extremely hard. The next three months will be crucial and I look forward to see how it plays out.”
Le Clos will head to Europe at the end of May to race in five international competitions in preparation for the Olympics. He and his teammate Cameron van der Burgh are considered to be SA’s best medal prospects for London 2012.