Q and A: Olympic gold medalist Chad Le Clos ‘inspires’ young athletes

David Lozada
Q and A: Olympic gold medalist Chad Le Clos ‘inspires’ young athletes
Rappler's David Lozada spoke with 2012 Summer Olympics swimming champion Chad Le Clos at the Nanjing Youth Olympic Games about inspiring the next generation of champions

NANJING, China – Olympic gold medalist Chad Le Clos attended the Swimming semi-finals event of the Nanjing Youth Olympic Games (YOG) on Friday, August 20, to show his support and give tips to the athletes competing in the sport.

The South African swimmer said he wanted to “inspire the younger generation of athletes” and share his valuable Olympic experiences and lessons.

Le Clos rose to Olympic fame after winning 5 medals at the inaugural YOG in Singapore 2010. He then went on to win the gold medal for the 200-meter butterfly event in the 2012 London Summer Olympic Games, beating his athlete role model Michael Phelps.

Le Clos was only 18 when he championed in Singapore. The YOG ambassador answers questions from the media below. 

Q: What did you learn when you were competing in the Singapore YOG that you were able to use to get to London 2012 and further your career?

A: The biggest thing I learned in Singapore was everything that came outside of the pool. I had to report to the race 30 minutes before. I had to go through media zones for interviews. I had press conferences after competitions. It’s a whole process and its crazy how much I changed as an athlete and how much I learned the last four years. 

Q: Were you more comfortable in the London Olympics because of your YOG experiences?

A: Definitely, I think if I weren’t in Singapore, I wouldn’t have achieved my success in London and the other games I attended in 2010 and 2011. A lot of people need that opening competition or opening match to break their backs and that was my break in Singapore.

Q: Who inspired you? Who are your role models?

A: Obviously, it’s Michael Phelps. I said it many times before. I remember being in Athens in 2004 and I was an 11 year old kid who dreamt about going to the Olympic Games. Then, 8 years later, I get to race him and beat him. It’s an incredible thing to think about. Another role model is Nelson Mandela. He inspired South Africa. He did a lot to take my country out of the dark ages. We’ve come along way in just a few years.

Chad Le Clos says beating his role model Michael Phelps at the 2012 Olympics was the highlight of his life. He hopes the athletes at the 2014 Youth Olympic Games who look up him “get to beat me at a later time.” Photo by Hannibal/EPA


Q: What was your most memorable experience?

A: I think beating my idol Michael Phelps was the most unbelievable feeling of my life. The way people saw the race on TV was the way I’ve been picturing it in my dreams. I was preparing for that moment for many years.

Q: Are you worried that one of the young athletes here in the YOG will beat you in the next Olympics?

A: I guess it’s going to be quite weird, coming out here and inspiring young athletes, and maybe, 2 years time they are going to race me and try to beat me. I’m going to be careful about what I say. At the end of the day, the best athlete is going to win.

Q: What do you get out of inspiring young athletes?

A: 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.

Q: What is your message to other young people who look up to you as a role model?

A: My message is very simple. I know what it feels like to look up to 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. There’s going to be a lot of people out there when you’re 16 or 17 who’ll say, “Come out with us in the weekend” or “Come and have a party.” 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. – Rappler.com 

See other YOG stories here

Inside Nanjing, 4 days before the Olympics

PH Youth Olympics flag-bearer ‘hopeful’ for a gold medal

IN PHOTOS: The Nanjing Youth Olympics opening ceremony

All heart: PH triathlete finishes ‘strong’ in Nanjing YOG

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