Chad le Clos is hungrier than ever for success

The London 2012 gold medallist tells his rivals he is improving with age, and warns them the postponement of Tokyo 2020 only enhances his chances of adding to his medal collection.

By Andrew Binner ·

Like a fine South African wine, Chad le Clos feels he is getting better with age.

That's a stark warning to any rivals of the Durban-born swimmer, who famously pipped Michael Phelps to 200m butterfly Olympic gold at London 2012.

Not even the postponement of Tokyo 2020 can dampen Le Clos' motivation to add to his four Olympic medals.

"I'm ready to go again next year, I'm in good shape. I have an extra 12 years to be even better,” the Durban native told Stats Perform.

"I feel like I'm getting better, I feel like I was in the best shape of my life a couple of weeks ago.

“I'm confident I can come back, hopefully be better than I was in London and Rio and will be in the best shape possible next year.”

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A model of consistency

The 28-year-old has been ever-present on podiums over his ten years competing on the world stage, scooping four Olympic medals, four world crowns, and seven Commonwealth Games titles.

But an impressive recent showing at the 2019 World Championships in Gwangju - where he made the podium in the 100m and 200m butterfly - has persuaded le Clos to believe that Tokyo will not be his last shot at adding to his Olympic title from 2012.

"I think I can get to two more [Olympics], I think I'll be very competitive in the next one for sure,” Le Clos, who will be 32 when Paris 2024 comes around, continued.

"For 2024, we'll see what happens, it's a long way away but I'm just happy to be in the position that I'm in."

"I lost my motivation after London, but I'm back to where I was now. I'm hungrier and I really want to be successful at the Olympics, I want to win again." - Chad le Clos speaking to Stats Perform

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Competitive spirit

It’s been an unsettling few weeks for Le Clos, who was forced to leave his Italy training camp following the COVID-19 outbreak.

Then, after moving back to his base in Turkey, an imminent ban on international travel meant another hasty exit, this time to his home in South Africa.

Unperturbed, he is currently maintaining basic fitness by attaching himself to the wall with a cord, which keeps him stationary as he swims in a 10m pool.

But even without another swimmer in sight, there is still no shortage of competition in the Le Clos household. However, it’s his father Bert who seems to hold all the aces.

"We are playing a lot of poker, a crazy amount of poker,” Le Clos continued to Stats Perform.

“My dad is a really good player, me and my brother have been playing about five or six years. We've been playing every night to pass the time.

"We are playing for things like doing the dishes, breakfast in the morning, pancakes. I've been doing all the dishes, I've been so bad!"

Butterfly rivals

Le Clos knows he must have his competitive streak primed, if he is to overcome a growing list of butterfly challengers in what is becoming one of the most hotly-contested events in men's swimming.

Following his intense rivalry with Phelps in 2012, Singapore’s Joseph Schooling bested both men to win the 100m fly at Rio 2016.

Since then, Russia’s Andrei Minakov, Kristof Milak from Hungary, Japanese swimmer Seto Daiya, and outstanding American sprinter Caeleb Dressel have also emerged as challengers for butterfly medals at Tokyo 2020.

While the one-year delay to the Games has undoubtedly caused Le Clos frustration - after completing his successful 12-week pre-Games camp - it also presents an opportunity for the Rio 2016 200m freestyle silver medallist to expand his repertoire in Tokyo.

"If the programme stays the same, and they stick with morning finals [for the US television market], extra events are a big possibility," he told ESPN.

"If they move them to the evening before then it would be a problem, because you lose half a day of rest and recovery time. But I will be preparing to swim as much as possible."

Chad le Clos and Michael Phelps (silver) next to Joseph Schooling (gold) on the Rio 2016 podium.

Next steps

The swimming calendar has become increasingly busy over the past few seasons and, despite there being no Olympics in 2020, there will be no shortage of opportunities to compete in the pool once the competitions restart.

In addition to December's short course World Championships in Abu Dhabi and the Swimming World Cup, running from September to November in multiple cities, le Clos will be looking forward to competing in the Energy Standard colours in the International Swimming League.

For now though, it's back to the cord, the wall, and the 10m swimming pool.