After winning five medals at the Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games Chad Le Clos went on to be crowned Olympic 200m butterfly champion at London 2012 and then win two world titles in 2013. Inspired by Michael Phelps, the man he beat to secure gold in London, he is now following the American’s lead by becoming a source of inspiration for the next generation of young swimmers, as an ambassador of the 2014 YOG in Nanjing.
“The Youth Olympic Games have been a huge springboard for me,” said Nanjing 2014 YOG ambassador Chad Le Clos. “They were a huge help for me when it came to preparing for my first Olympic Games in London. Quite apart from the sport, though, the memories and the friends that I made there will stay will me forever and I am very excited to taking part in the YOG experience once more.”
The South African swimmer was 18 when he announced himself on the international scene in stunning fashion at the first Youth Olympic Games in Singapore in 2010, winning a medal in each of the five events he entered, including a gold in the 200m medley. That inaugural YOG boasted Le Clos’ idol Michael Phelps as an ambassador, prompting the then teenager to comment: “I’ve been a fan of his since I was a little boy. He really inspired me when it came to competing in the 2010 YOG.”
Two years later Le Clos beat his all-time hero as he sprung one of the sensations of the swimming events at London 2012, timing his finish just right in the 200m butterfly to touch home 0.05 seconds of the American and win gold. Three days later he took silver in the 100m butterfly, this time finishing behind Phelps, who remains the most successful Olympian in history. When the American retired, Le Clos took up his mantle by winning the 100m and 200m butterfly titles at the 2013 World Championships in Barcelona.
Setting out his objectives for the future, Le Clos said: “I want to get faster every year, keep my confidence high so I can continue dominating my main events, and extend my range to other freestyle and medley races.” Also in his sights is the world 200m butterfly record of 1:51.51, set by Phelps in 2009.
The South African will again be following in Phelps’ footsteps in Nanjing, where he will take his turn to inspire young swimmers. “To be performing that role for a whole generation is a real honour for me,” he said.