World swimming champion and South Africa’s most decorated Olympian, Chad le Clos, scarcely needs introduction.
His winning record is full and illustrious, the stuff of headlines. He is still adding to it. He became South Africa’s most medalled Olympian at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and is now training for Tokyo 2020. Born in 1992, his competitive nature and determination to touch the wall first shone through from an early age.
He joined Seagulls Swimming Club aged eight, under the guidance of Graham Hill. Le Clos started swimming competitively aged 10 and by the age of 14, he had already made the senior Olympic squad. The rest, as they say, is history as he went on to the greatest heights in world swimming, scoop a pile of gold medals and receive worldwide acclaim.
Le Clos has not forgotten his roots and he is always keen to help other young people to reach their potential, particularly those from previously disadvantaged communities. In 2016 he established an elite training squad. In April this year he established the Chad Le Clos Academy, at Hoërskool Jan van Riebeek, Cape Town. Taking a well-rounded approach to development, the academy aims to transform the way swimming is taught in South Africa, from beginner through to elite level. The structured and world-class academy programme will ensure that swimmers enjoy the learning experience and remain in the sport for as long as possible.
“I would like to thank the headmaster and governing body of Hoërskool Jan van Riebeek for all their help. I am excited about the new base here for our new elite squad,” he said. “It feels amazing to inspire young athletes. In a way, I know what it feels like to look up to people. If they look at me as inspiration, they must not look at me too much in awe. You have to respect your competitors. But one day, you should try and beat them. Hopefully, they get to beat me at a later time.”
Le Clos urged young people to stay focused on their dreams and to never give up. “I know what it feels like to look up to other athletes. I know what it feels like to get picked on. A lot of people in South Africa told me that I was not good in swimming and that I was never going to make it. But I never listened to those people,” he said.
Le Clos warned youth that there would be many distractions: “You just need to sacrifice and think about the bigger picture. I always had a goal in mind. That’s the most important part, your goals,” he said.