South Africa

Le Clos: Bring it on!

2013-11-30 17:01
Chad le Clos (AFP)

Durban -  Swimming sensation Chad le Clos believes he constantly needs to shift his barriers and challenge the best in their specialist events.

Add a world long-course record to the equation and the ambitious South African is well on his way to etching out a place in history similar to that of his idol, US swimmer Michael Phelps.

"With life in general, people have goals to achieve, and I want to keep on challenging myself. I just want to know the day I retire that I did all I could," Le Clos said in Johannesburg on Tuesday.

"I have to break a long-course record. There is no doubt about that if I want to secure my place as one of the best swimmers in the world."

After Le Clos famously deposed Phelps as the Olympic 200m butterfly champion at last year's London Games, he had more swimming greats in his sights.

This year he twice beat South African swimming legend Roland Schoeman in the 50m butterfly in the Fina World Cup series.

"At the World Cup, I wanted to race Roland in the 50m butterfly, it is his main race. I want to race Vladimir Morozov [Russian world short-course champion] in the 100m free, even if he beats me. I'd rather lose to the best than win against nobody," he said.

"That's been my philosophy since I've been a kid. If that means that I get three silver medals at the next Olympics and no gold, then so be it. I'll never stop being the best that I can be."

Le Clos felt his crowning achievement in the pool was beating world champion Daiya Seto of Japan in the 400m individual medley on his own turf.

This attitude says a lot of Le Clos's appetite for glory. He broke the 200m butterfly world short-course record on two occasions this year.

Le Clos was in sizzling form on the first day of the Japan leg of the World Cup series and smashed his own South African 400m individual medley record with a time of three minutes, 59.23 seconds (3:59.23), crushing his previous national and continental mark of 4:02.18 set in Berlin in 2009.

"The world record wasn't the biggest thing that happened to me. The 400 IM was by far the biggest race for me by far," Le Clos said.

"I believed I could do it, but I had to prove it to myself first, and now I have no doubt that I can win the Commonwealth titles in the medleys.

"Before that, I was a bit doubtful. Now I know with the training I am going to do and with the confidence I have now, the guys can't beat me."

At the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, Le Clos won the 200m butterfly and the 400m individual medley, and collected silver in the 4x100m medley and two bronze medals in the 4x100m freestyle and 4x200m freestyle.

Le Clos said he hoped to return home from next year's Commonwealth Games in Glasgow with even more silverware in individual events than he did in India in 2010.

"I'm going to try for the three butterflies, the 100m and 200m butterfly, definitely both medleys, so five maybe six (events) with the freestyle," he said.

"I think I might be swimming the 200m free, but I want to swim as many as possible.

"At the World Cups, I proved to myself I can swim the medleys, I beat Seto in the 400m IM in his home pool."

This year may not have reached the same levels of euphoria of the Olympic Games, but the 21-year-old nevertheless lived up to the promise of last year by winning both the 100m and 200m butterfly golds at the Fina World Championships in Barcelona.

While rest is a relatively alien concept to the diligent swimmer, he said he would take a 10-day break from the pool over December.

Before he can put his feet up, though, he will have to deal with coach Graham Hill's parting gift.

"We finish on December 23. Before, we do a ‘Graham Hill's Christmas present', it is a 100 of 100s [100m lengths]. It takes about three hours, which is 10 kilometres, and every year before the Olympics we do 200 of 100s," he said.

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