Swimming: I can't believe I didn't win gold: Le Clos

Canadian Olympic bronze medallist Hilary Caldwell and South African ex-Olympic champion Chad le Clos posing for photos during a meet and greet session ahead of the Singapore leg of the Fina/airweave Swimming World Cup.
Canadian Olympic bronze medallist Hilary Caldwell and South African ex-Olympic champion Chad le Clos posing for photos during a meet and greet session ahead of the Singapore leg of the Fina/airweave Swimming World Cup.ST PHOTO: JAMIE KOH

Swim star le Clos keen to bounce back from disappointing Olympics at World Cup here

Swimmers, practitioners of a sport defined by fractions of a second, often pore through their race videos to fine-tune their strategy.

Yet, more than two months since surrendering his Olympic 200m butterfly crown in Rio de Janeiro, Chad le Clos has not watched a single replay of that race.

Calling it one of his worst races ever, le Clos, who is here for the Fina/airweave Swimming World Cup, said: "The disappointment I'm feeling right now is because of the way I trained. My preparation was perfect. But it just didn't happen.

"It still hasn't registered that I didn't win at the (Rio) Olympics."

He finished fourth in that event and picked up silvers in the 100m fly and 200m freestyle. The disappointment is compounded by the fact that, to le Clos, the 200m fly winning time was not that fast.

IT'S ABOUT THE COMPETITION

I'd rather lose to Joseph than win when he's not there. I pride myself on racing the best swimmers in the world.

'' CHAD LE CLOS , the reigning 100m fly world champion, on looking forward to racing against Singapore's Joseph Schooling at next year's world championships.

Michael Phelps won in 1min 53.36sec, a time that is the third fastest since January last year.

"With absolute respect to Michael, 1:53.36 is pretty bad. Even for me 1:54.06, come on, man, I did that in training a few weeks ago," said the South African.

"If Michael had won in 1:52 or 1:51 I'd have been like 'cool, I got beaten properly', so now it's a little bit harder (to digest)."

But le Clos refused to give any excuses for his lacklustre displays. He said: "It's not the way I was raised."

Nor did he play up his rivalry with Phelps, who retired after winning a record 23 Olympic golds. "I have no bad feelings towards Michael or anybody for that matter. How can you hate someone who has the same dream as you?" he said.

To be fair, it would not be an understatement to say the 24-year-old has had a rough year.

Before Rio, both his parents were diagnosed with cancer. Mother Geraldine has since undergone a double mastectomy and chemotherapy, while father Bert had an operation in June for prostate cancer.

After Rio, le Clos parted ways with Graham Hill, his coach of 14 years, saying "it's time for a change". The reigning 100m fly world champion will move to Cape Town from Durban to train.

Instead of wallowing in self-pity, le Clos is looking forward to bouncing back and fulfilling the potential he demonstrated when he won Youth Olympic gold here in 2010.

"For next year I'm just focusing on the world championships and taking back what's mine," said the 2013 200m fly world champion.

And there is no better way to get going than to do what he does best - race, and win.

"Coming to the World Cups and kicking some a**, that kind of got me back. Life goes on and (not winning at the Olympics) is not the worst thing that's happened to me," said le Clos, who has 18 golds from six World Cup legs this season.

He can add to his tally in Singapore today (50m fly, 200m fly) and tomorrow (50m free, 100m fly ) at the OCBC Aquatic Centre.

As for next year's world championships in Budapest, Singapore's Joseph Schooling, the Olympic 100m fly champion, is his biggest threat, while Hungary's Laszlo Cseh, competing on home turf, will also look to dethrone him.

Not that he is shying away from the challenge. Jabbing his finger on the table, he said: "Joseph has to be there. I'd rather lose to Joseph than win when he's not there. I pride myself on racing the best swimmers in the world. That's how I like to roll."

With this focus and drive, one suspects this time, he will make it a race worth re-watching.

WORLD CUP SINGAPORE

Day 1: Singtel TV Ch110 & okto, 6pm

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 21, 2016, with the headline ''I can't believe I didn't win Rio gold''. Print Edition | Subscribe