South Africa

Le Clos opens up on parents' cancer battle

2016-07-12 12:00
Bert le Clos (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - South African swimming superstar and Discovery Vitality ambassador, Chad le Clos, has opened up on his parents' battle with cancer.

On Monday, Le Clos revealed that his mother, Geraldine, has had her breast cancer return, while his father, Bert, has developed prostate cancer.

Geraldine has undergone a double mastectomy, while Bert has lost 30kg in weight in the past six months.

Le Clos, the 2012 gold medal winner in the 200m butterfly in London, will resume his duel with American legend Michael Phelps in both the 100m and 200m butterfly in Rio next month.

On Tuesday, Le Clos gave a personal account of how the devastating news has affected his family.

These have definitely been the most difficult few months of my life.

The Olympic Games are just a few weeks away and the excitement is building as I look to defend my gold medal. Sadly my preparation for Rio has been overshadowed by the fact that both my parents are fighting cancer.

My Mum Geraldine has breast cancer, which has returned since her remission in 2010. She has undergone a double mastectomy in recent weeks. Meanwhile my father Bert has developed prostate cancer.

Everything around my family, the swimming and the pressure from the Olympics have all come together this year. It has been difficult dealing with it all as I train. I have had moments where I have been wondering whether Mum and Dad will be in Rio, but as things stand, they will be there.

A lot of people got to know my Dad after he burst into their lives, when I won in London four years ago. Not everyone will know quite what he means to me.

There are no words to describe what he has done for my career. He has always been there, from my very first swimming competition when I was a seven-year-old at Penzance Primary School. He was there screaming: “Attaboy son!” He was the same when I got selected for any teams and all the other smaller things I won when I was a kid. His pride in every little thing I achieved was incredible.

The world saw what he is like when I won at London 2012. It really was not an act when he was doing the BBC interview on television that made him famous. His support for me is the same today, despite what he is going through.

We have been part of a documentary by the legendary British Olympic rower Sir Matthew Pinsent following my preparations for Rio for the past year and a half. It is due to be shown at the end of July and is called UNBELIEVABLE, after Dad’s famous interview in London. Obviously we did not know any of this was going to happen when we started filming. This has meant the crew have seen every part of my family life, including seeing my father at his absolute best, but also how he is being hit by this disease. Mum and Dad could have stopped the filming but they agreed for it to continue. That’s just who they are.

The cancer has affected Dad in many ways. He has lost 30 kilos in about six months which, when you know how much my Dad loves to eat, is a pretty frightening thing. But it goes well beyond the physical. It has been a difficult emotional roller coaster for him.

Finding out about my mum has been much, much worse for us all as a family because she has been through it before. We have been through it with her before too.

She was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010 when I was preparing for the Commonwealth Games. It was just before my 18th birthday. My parents both knew how important it was for me to qualify for that and so they actually kept Mum’s illness from me for about two and a half weeks until after the trials. I was angry with them at the time, but now I understand why they did it.

This time I have been aware of everything that is going on. Again I know Mum and Dad did not really want to tell me in case they interrupted my Rio preparations! It has not. They just want me to achieve great things and do everything to keep my life as simple as possible.

Having my Mum and Dad healthy would mean so much more than winning a gold medal but at the same time I know I have never trained as hard for anything as I am doing now.

Thinking about what has happened to both my parents has helped a lot with my motivation going into the Games. I feel like the hardships I have gone through in my life have made me who I am. The difficult times make you mentally tougher. There are many pressures on me going into Rio but I know when I step on the starting block in an Olympic final that I can handle anything that gets thrown at me.

Unbelievable: The Chad le Clos Story” will air in South Africa on Sunday, July 24 at 18:00 on SuperSport 1.

View the trailer HERE

Geraldine and Bert le Clos (Gallo Images)

Read more on:    olympics 2016  |  chad le clos  |  swimming

What To Read Next


Read News24’s Comments Policy

Live Video Streaming
Video Highlights
Sport Talk

Live scoring

Love 2 Meet
English Premiership flutter

Take Sport24's "expert" tips at your peril...


With the Absa Premiership in full swing, who will be crowned champions when all is said and done? Will Mamelodi Sundowns defend their title? Or can Kaizer Chiefs, Orlando Pirates or Bidvest Wits mount a serious challenge? Stay glued to Sport24 to find out!

Latest blogs

How excited are you about the upcoming Olympic Games in Rio?

Twitter Follow Sport24 on Twitter

Facebook "Like" Sport24's Facebook page

WIN Enter and win with Sport24!

BlackBerry Stay in the loop on your BlackBerry

RSS Feeds Sport news delivered really simply.

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.