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Chad le Clos was a promising soccer player, but had to give up the game due to his swimming commitments.
When swimmer Chad le Clos won two medals in the 2012 Olympics in London, he also won the hearts of millions of South African fans.
The then-20-year-old Durbanite won an Olympic gold medal in the 200m men’s butterfly race and a silver in the 100m butterfly. In the former, he beat his swimming hero, the 2004 and 2008 Olympic champion, Michael Phelps of the United States, by 0.05 seconds.
Le Clos commented that it was Phelps who initially influenced him to compete in butterfly. 'After the Beijing Games I started to swim butterfly. It was never really my strong point, but I felt so inspired by him,' he said.
It was not the first time Le Clos had claimed multiple honours in a major international sporting event. At the Commonwealth Games in Delhi in 2010 the youngster, then a matriculant at Westville Boys' High School in Durban, took home two gold, a silver and two bronze medals. His wins included the 200m butterfly and 400m individual medley, breaking Commonwealth Games' records in both events.
The same year he participated in the World Short Course Championships in Dubai, winning gold in the 200m butterfly, as well as the 2010 Summer Youth Olympics in Singapore, where he won five medals. It was no surprise when he was named the Daily News Spar Sportsperson of the Year in 2010, an award for top school sportsmen.
In 2011 he took part in the World Aquatics Championships in Shanghai, and although medals escaped him, he was credibly placed in the butterfly and medley relay events.
Born on 12 April 1992, Chad Guy Bertrand le Clos began training in the pool at a young age and first competed as a 10-year-old. He describes swimming as a solitary sport, and once told a men’s magazine: 'It's very lonely – ask any swimmer. You're at the bottom of the pool looking at the black line the whole day.'
Following Le Clos’ gold win in London last year, his ecstatic father, Bert, gave an unrestrained and emotional interview to the BBC, charming viewers and becoming something of a celebrity himself as the clip went viral. 'He’s the most down to earth, beautiful boy you have ever seen in your life,' Bert le Clos enthused about his son.