'I let a lot of people down. I let my country down' – Le Clos | SASCOC - SASCOC
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‘I let a lot of people down. I let my country down’ – Le Clos

By Gary Lemke
Chad le Clos was ready to ‘take it on the chin’, as he put it, as he spoke to the media for the first time since finishing fourth in the Olympic 200m butterfly final in Rio.

‘I’ll take it on the chin, I’ll assess it and I’ll move on. I’ve moved on already. I let a lot of people down, I let my country down. I should have definitely won that race,’ he said of the fourth place finish in the much-hyped rematch with Michael Phelps.

The expectation before Tuesday’s 200m final was amplified by a video that went viral of Le Clos taunting Phelps in the ready room before their semi-final, with the American legend scowling into the empty space ahead of him as a smiling Le Clos shadow boxed in front of him.

When asked how the atmosphere was before the final, in the wake of the video being circulated around the globe, Le Clos said that he hadn’t seen it. ‘The atmosphere was normal, I haven’t watched it … I haven’t been on social media for a long time, I haven’t been on my phone.

‘There was no reason to swim that slow [1min 54.06sec]. Maybe the hype got to me, I wasn’t [cracks knuckles] … this is what I wanted, to race in the final. If I came second in the final and produced my best time, c’est la vie … but to lose with a 54.0 is disgraceful from my side. I don’t accept defeat like that at this level. But, this is not the end of my 200m career and I hope that Phelps can hang around for another year. I’d love to swim against him again.’

‘Congratulations to Michael, he’s a phenomenal champion. I’m in good shape, the best shape of my life and there was no reason to swim that slow. We will assess it and not make any excuses. There may have been reasons for the defeat but I’ll never say that.

‘I said to you guys before we started there was a possibility I could have come in here, got two golds, two silvers … two fourths so I stand by what I said. We have to do a lot better.’

Le Clos, who came to Rio as the man who had toppled Phelps in London in a stunning upset – certainly a much bigger upset that was the case when Phelps exacted his revenge in Rio – called the swim ‘the worst performance of my career. There will never be another performance like that, no matter what.’

Immediately after that final, Le Clos cut a distraught figure as he buried his head in a towel and bypassed the media in the mixed zone, an area where athletes are obliged to give interviews, no matter how uncomfortable the situation. The reality is that it can be a quick couple of soundbites and then move on. However, he is not the only South African swimmer to have walked straight on by during these Games. ‘I’m sorry about the other night, I don’t know what to say.’ It takes a man to admit he made a mistake and Le Clos will have grown six feet taller in many people’s eyes for ‘apologising’.

‘The first couple of hours after the race were the toughest part … but, like my dad said, we [Le Clos’] don’t cry for losing, we cry for winning. As much as I wanted to cry, I really did, I must be honest, I didn’t. Worse things have happened to me this year – it’s been well documented that both his parents are battling cancer – and this isn’t even the fifth worst thing to have happened in the last few months.’

Of the 200m final itself, the 24-year-old said, ‘in my mind I was winning. Even with 10 metres to go, I was still winning, but my body wasn’t. I don’t want to say anything [excuse] … when you get to an Olympics I have always said that there’s a winner and there’s a loser, there’s first, second, third and nothing after that. To offer an excuse would be disrespectful to Michael and the other guys. Maybe I was more emotional towards the 200m fly and when you’re emotionally invested like that it can be detrimental. I’ve got a clear head, I’ll respond. I have always said, “don’t judge me when I’m roaring like a lion, judge me when I’ve got my back against the wall”.’

There has been mixed feedback around the social media forums relating to Le Clos’ post-race ‘behaviour’, but now it’s time to move on and look ahead. He is a champion swimmer and a proud South African ambassador. Perhaps he and Phelps need to go into a locked room together, alone, and sort things out because too much smack-talk and cheap tricks have spoiled what should be a fantastic swimming rivalry. And, importantly, a friendship between a legend and a brilliant young star. ‘The kid’s got talent,’ Phelps said of Le Clos after winning the 20th gold of his career. Maybe he was being derogatory, maybe he meant it as a true compliment. We’ll have to ask him that later.

Now’s the time to look forward and Le Clos was happy to be back doing what he does best, swimming – and swimming fast.

‘It feels great to be back in the water. The last few hours have been difficult to say the least. I don’t know what to say. I needed to get that one [100m butterfly heat] out the way, I was a bit rusty.

‘Going into the 100m I’ve got nothing to lose. He [Phelps] is the defending champion and I have the support of everyone. I’m very hungry for the 100m, hungrier than I’ve ever been, very happy, excited.

‘I hope Michael sticks around for another year so that I can race him again [in the 200]. It’s up to him, if he retires he’s still the greatest of all time, he can do whatever he wants to do. I have the greatest respect for him, he’s still in great shape. He can continue competing.’

And what of the morning after that night before? ‘It was past 3am when I went to bed and I woke up yesterday a different guy. I came to the pool, had a small swim. I’ll be better for this, I’ll come through and hopefully get the “W” in what might be Michael’s last race.’

Image by Wessel Oosthuizen/SASPA


71 Comments

  1. Sfundo Mc'Adam BheBhe

    August 11, 2016 at 7:56 pm

    We still lv n support u champ

  2. Tlaishego Victor Mohlala

    August 11, 2016 at 8:00 pm

    yes u did, how can a great swimmer like you come 4th? 4th le clos?!! i really thought u were going to prove your doubters wrong and embarrass phelps

  3. Debbie Benjamin

    August 11, 2016 at 8:03 pm

    He had family problems his mom and dad have cancer so give him a break he still a champ

  4. Sihle Helaria Jonas

    August 11, 2016 at 8:05 pm

    He tried his best, he was under pressure and he chocked (it happens). Its okay Chad, we love you.
    He needs our support right now, the world is bullying and making fun of him; we need to have his back. #TeamSA

  5. Vandhana Sookan-Ramsoonder

    August 11, 2016 at 8:06 pm

    You did not let us down Chad the mere fact that you are there is an achievement. You are our no.1

  6. Ralph L. Thomas

    August 11, 2016 at 8:09 pm

    That should be motivation not distraction.

  7. Lisa Imrie

    August 11, 2016 at 8:10 pm

    Not a let-down, you’re fantastic U0001f49aU0001f1ffU0001f1e6

  8. Debbie Benjamin

    August 11, 2016 at 8:11 pm

    Can go booth ways

  9. Skia Khosified Bomali

    August 11, 2016 at 8:11 pm

    Phelps ‘let the swimming do the talking’ while others were busy talking Phelps was preparing himself.

  10. Irma Spies

    August 11, 2016 at 8:15 pm

    Are you going to tell us how the SA football team also let us down at the Olympics.

  11. Annemie Mynhardt

    August 11, 2016 at 8:15 pm

    I’m sorry, but when did you get your medal?

  12. Tasja Diedericks

    August 11, 2016 at 8:15 pm

    You did 120% we are proud 🙂

  13. Gillian Wratten

    August 11, 2016 at 8:17 pm

    Chad, your swimming is an absolute treat to watch. You make our beautiful country very proud.

  14. Sherene Woolston

    August 11, 2016 at 8:21 pm

    Chad is a hero for just making it to the Olympics. It is astounding the resources American athletes have at their disposal. Every American should be an Olympian but many choose to work at Walmart or just be mediocre. Chad gave his best, that’s an awesome achievement for him and testament that South Africa is a great place that produces great leaders and true heroes. Just go on Twitter and read the vicious comments written about Chad. That’s how they are, I live and work in the US and have experienced their mediocrity and meanness. We are better than that and Chad is the real winner for representing a great nation.

  15. Tlaishego Victor Mohlala

    August 11, 2016 at 8:22 pm

    i was born with a medal Annemi

  16. Caz Haines

    August 11, 2016 at 8:23 pm

    So how many gold medals, or ANY, do you have? How dare you judge someone who is going through the toughest time in his life?

  17. Sihle Helaria Jonas

    August 11, 2016 at 8:24 pm

    Okay Sally Giles he did not choke.

  18. Caz Haines

    August 11, 2016 at 8:25 pm

    Ralph … you put urself in his shoes. When my mum was having treatment, it was the worst time in our lives. Chad has BOTH parents fighting … double the trauma of watching but being unable to help add to that, the Olympics snd knowing there are people like you out there who put added pressure on his shoulders. Show some empathy.

  19. Eddie Bruwer

    August 11, 2016 at 8:25 pm

    First round exit for both teams as expected. Le Clos is still a Champ and for the mere fact that he still went to the Olympics after foundibg out that both his parents diagnosed with cancer just shows the character he has.

  20. Mpho Madi

    August 11, 2016 at 8:25 pm

    Tlaishego Victor Mohlala u have medals for judging people it seemsU0001f633U0001f637

  21. Tlaishego Victor Mohlala

    August 11, 2016 at 8:25 pm

    foetsek the both of you why dont you just go to sleep and stop getting on my nerves

  22. Caz Haines

    August 11, 2016 at 8:28 pm

    No way did you let us down … you went over there despite the really difficult time your family are going through, and you SWAM! YOU TRIED AND GAVE THE BEST YOU COULD GIVE.
    You’re not a ‘let down’ Chad, on the contrary, you’re a true hero.

  23. Samantha Jonas Reines

    August 11, 2016 at 8:29 pm

    High5 U0001f64b to all except u VictorU0001f601U0001f61c Chad we still lovies u hunU0001f49aU0001f49aU0001f49aU0001f49aU0001f49aU0001f49aU0001f49a

  24. Samantha Jonas Reines

    August 11, 2016 at 8:30 pm

    Well said Caz

  25. Tshepiso Tshepi Smith

    August 11, 2016 at 8:30 pm

    No he didn’t let us down, you did your best man but remember that the is always one winner n to us you ar3 our winner…

  26. Najma Jenkins

    August 11, 2016 at 8:31 pm

    TRUE hero indeed. Proud of u Chad.

  27. Annemie Mynhardt

    August 11, 2016 at 8:32 pm

    Tlaishego Victor Mohlala….medal for? Being a supporter doesnt mean that you only support someone during the good times. You are a true supporter when you can support someone through difficult times aswell. No matter what.

  28. Saul Jackson

    August 11, 2016 at 8:35 pm

    Jason Smith Benji Sack Levi Kruyer he’s gonna be back for the 100m! Phelps watch out U0001f4aa

  29. Sarah-Joan Shannon

    August 11, 2016 at 8:35 pm

    you are my hero. tough lesson to learn – but stronger for it. yes – you lost fucos and you allowed your ego to guides you. Stay humble and lets your passionate for swimming to guide u. A good cry – helps with the healing process

  30. Leslie Morrison

    August 11, 2016 at 8:38 pm

    No one minds if you give your best and don’t win. Tough competition. Some people do care if you act like a doos before you get in the water though.

  31. Charne Weyer Pendock

    August 11, 2016 at 8:46 pm

    You’re still our golden boy and we’re proud of you ❤

  32. Sikhumbuzo Ckura Mgxwati

    August 11, 2016 at 8:50 pm

    Work on your mistakes for next time

  33. Gregory Edelstein

    August 11, 2016 at 8:56 pm

    Chad is a hero. Period.

  34. Benvan Appollis

    August 11, 2016 at 8:59 pm

    In our eyes and in our hearts, you will always be a champion.

  35. Andrea Mendes

    August 11, 2016 at 9:03 pm

    You are still our champion Chad U0001f44dU0001f49a

  36. Zonika Botha

    August 11, 2016 at 9:09 pm

    It is okay Chad, you are still a champ. We support you no matter what. Keep your head up and do the best you can.

  37. Marilu Scolari Di Santolo

    August 11, 2016 at 9:13 pm

    Always will be Number 1 in our Hearts xx

  38. Alyson Crous

    August 11, 2016 at 9:52 pm

    Chad let no one down. He swam a fantastic race. Well done Chad!

  39. Christin Samuel

    August 11, 2016 at 10:21 pm

    You are our Hero Chad ? You did not let us down! ? So incredibly proud of you my boy! ❤ Just keep on giving of your best! ? You are a Champion ? Supporting you 100% ? Go Chad ? #TeamLeClos #teamSArise #Rio2016

  40. Annemarie Botes Joubert

    August 12, 2016 at 1:49 am

    He is still my hero!

  41. Gabriella Reiss

    August 12, 2016 at 3:01 am

    We still love you Chad you still our Champ, and proud go #TeamSA

  42. Raffaella Wainer

    August 12, 2016 at 3:24 am

    Don’t worry about it , your best is good enough and you really have more than enough on your plate right now U0001f494 but thank u xx

  43. Kate Cowie

    August 12, 2016 at 4:21 am

    Still a champion.

  44. Michelle Mayo

    August 12, 2016 at 4:21 am

    Every single athlete that gets selected to participate is a hero! No matter what you do on the day – medal or not, you are an Olympian!

  45. Magret Seema

    August 12, 2016 at 4:30 am

    chad is simply the best that boy really puts up a fight

  46. Shameela Phillips-Daniels

    August 12, 2016 at 4:31 am

    Don’t let Phelps get into ur head Chad. Block out the negativity U0001f49d We still Super Proud of you U0001f4e3 Show that arrogant American, you not giving up! Go Team SA! U0001f3ca

  47. Belinda Schumann

    August 12, 2016 at 4:35 am

    Super proud of you still a champion.

  48. Ilze Anderson

    August 12, 2016 at 5:25 am

    No you didnt!!! You will always be OUR hero!!!!!

  49. Darrin Smith

    August 12, 2016 at 5:26 am

    A proper Champion !!!!!

  50. Elize Ferreira Combrinck

    August 12, 2016 at 5:48 am

    Nee jy het nie. Jy is net ‘n mens.

  51. Joanne Spearman

    August 12, 2016 at 6:03 am

    What goes around, comes around!

  52. Saa-rah Adams

    August 12, 2016 at 6:05 am

    Next time Chad. It is possible.

  53. Nicole Iris Jansen

    August 12, 2016 at 6:16 am

    Why was he looking where everyone else is in his race? That’s dirty swimmer habits! Unnecessary energy!!!

  54. Fazila Morrison

    August 12, 2016 at 6:54 am

    You still a HERO Chad. Forget about the fair weather fansU0001f49a

  55. Mdw Dw

    August 12, 2016 at 7:06 am

    Wat u did before how we can forget u was u are u will b top class hero wat u can do and did hardly we get sports man keep it up

  56. Roelien Schomper-Coetzee

    August 12, 2016 at 7:38 am

    You will forever be our hero!

  57. Veda Naidoo

    August 12, 2016 at 8:04 am

    You can never let us down, Chad. You’re our hero, just keep your head up and focus on your next race.

  58. Saa-rah Adams

    August 12, 2016 at 8:20 am

    I just want to say that Federer used to cry when he lost. He was that disappointed in himself. Federer is now the greatest player in tennis history. He is the greatest there ever was and will be.

  59. Danielle O'Neil

    August 12, 2016 at 9:21 am

    You had a bad year!! No worries you still have 1 left!!! Lets do this!!! And remember we learn from our mistakes! Chin-up Chad!!!

  60. Andre Olivier

    August 12, 2016 at 9:51 am

    One disappointing swim does not define you. We are proud of you for who you are and what joy you brought us already. Now the pressure is off. Go and give your all – you are still our best. Manning up to your disappointment is leadership and character. Go ! .. get them. AND.. Michael Phelps is the greatest swimmer anyway – if you beat him or not and you are our Best if you best him or not. Go and be your best.!!

  61. Pogisho Spoja Motsumi

    August 12, 2016 at 10:38 am

    You made us proud Chad. You got the silver for us. Now its time to regroup.

  62. Pogisho Spoja Motsumi

    August 12, 2016 at 10:40 am

    Yeah, that really cost him the race. Rule #1 of a race= Don’t look where your opponents are until you finish.

  63. Lydia de Lange

    August 12, 2016 at 2:15 pm

    Dit is nie hoe jy val nie! Wys hulle hoe jy gaan opstaan! Jy is almal se hero!

  64. Terra Lomboza

    August 12, 2016 at 7:12 pm

    You didn’t let anyone down. You did your best. We love and respect you.

  65. Sush Ketumile

    August 13, 2016 at 7:18 am

    You did well Chad! Your daddy is obviously so proud of you

  66. Lucinda Crawford

    August 13, 2016 at 8:52 am

    Still proud of you

  67. Abegirl Mabuza

    August 13, 2016 at 8:59 am

    still a champion Chad…we love and respect you

  68. Gert Andries Prinsloo

    August 13, 2016 at 11:16 am

    Tlaishego Victor Mohlala real classy to judge someone who parents has cancer and still is fighting it

  69. Lisa Sehannie

    August 13, 2016 at 1:12 pm

    Michelle so well put!!! A hero regardless U0001f44fU0001f44fU0001f44f

  70. Tlaishego Victor Mohlala

    August 13, 2016 at 1:47 pm

    yoh! just looked at #phelps #leclos hashtags here on facebook and if he sees the memes and the jokes about him…boy, he will want to commit suizide…. sorry chad hope you learned your lesson mfwethu, and next time please focus on winning not your rival. “losers focus on winners,winners focus on winning” lol the americans are cruel with memese chad

  71. Jacqui Langley-dorman

    August 13, 2016 at 8:10 pm

    Always be proud of you Chad.

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