What Chad le Clos Told Us When He Beat Phelps All Those Years Ago

"To be the best means racing the greatest that’s ever been."



We look back in time at an interview we had with Chad le Clos before he edged out Michael Phelps in the 2012 Olympics.

Years ago, a 15-year-old Le Clos would wake up to watch the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, witnessing a 22-year-old Michael Phelps leaving his challengers in his wake en route to a number of gold medals. Phelps’s achievements stirred the adolescent to explore a new stroke. “After the Beijing Games I started to swim butterfly. It was never really my strong point but I felt so inspired by him,” Chad told MH.

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Two years later, in 2010, he took part in his first international competition at the Youth Olympics in Singapore, and discovered what he was capable of. Le Clos put in hours of hard work building up to his 2012 feat, but the pre-dawn commitments that comprise Le Clos’ seemingly swift rise are often disregarded. “The public doesn’t understand the sport,” Le Clos mentioned. “It’s very lonely – ask any swimmer. You’re at the bottom of the pool looking at the black line the whole day.”

“It takes dedication,” he said. “It’s not like you’re a substitute in a soccer game, you come on and score the winning goal in the last minute and you’re a hero. There’s no one like that in swimming – you can’t just dive in and beat Michael Phelps.” His relationship has always been with him and the pool, and his success has attested his dedication. Le Clos never wanted to just win, he’s always wanted to beat the best, that being his idol – Michael Phelps.

 

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In 2012, the now starry-eyed multiple gold winning swimmer took a while to admit it to MH when asked if there was something particularly special about racing the American champ. “Racing him? kinda… I don’t know why… it just is,” he said. Le Clos had been toying between the notions of speaking freely and speaking appropriately.

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“I just feel, like… you know… before he retires…I wanna, like…” And then it flows. “I want to say that I beat him. I want to go out there and beat the best. To be the best means racing the greatest that’s ever been. I almost wish that I was born eight years back so I could have raced him when he was growing up.”

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