“Unbelievable” Chad le Clos – role models among us

Unbelievable - Chad Le ClosSome of my favourite interviews have been  with authors. They are invariably good communicators, rarely needing more than a few prods to impart interesting tales. And as there’s a volume from which to prepare, it’s easy to turn onto a new road if one avenue runs cold. I was sent a copy of the new Chad le Clos book last week ahead of a proposed CNBC Africa television interview. A bit like the Steve Jobs biography, it took some getting into. But that perseverance was well rewarded. It’s the story of a remarkable young man who is a wonderful role model. If you haven’t bought the book yet, clicking on the image on the right will take you through to Kalahari.com. It’s sure to be one of the better investments of R125 you’ll make. – AH

By Alec Hogg*

Like most of South Africa, my first encounter with Chad le Clos was through watching the 2012 Olympics when his gold medal brought tears to our collective eyes – supported by father Bert who grabbed a nation’s heart with his “unbelievable” post-race interview on the BBC.

Chad showed he was everything his father told us when making a surprise appearance at the 2012 Discover Leadership Summit. Sports scientist Tim Noakes stepped in at the eleventh hour after a high profile dropped out. Midway through the presentation he brought a humble, chatty Chad onto the Sandton Convention Centre stage. The cheers could be heard all the way to the Le Clos home in Durban.

Now comes the book. And like everything we’ve seen so far from this young South African, it’s a pleasant surprise. After a slow start, typically Le Clos, it becomes real page turner. The pace heats up when Chad starts writing about his passions. And unwittingly perhaps, he passes along some powerful suggestions to the inevitable “know-betters” – those who usually have good intentions, but one where a smattering of proper research quickly exposes their ignorance.

There is much to reflect on from from these 112 pages.

We get to know a lot more about the family’s Mauritian-born patriarch whose warmth was translated into a classic television advert  for SuperSport (see bottom).  Bert comes across exactly as he did in that famous television interview (below) – Passionate, uncomplicated and with a deep love for his family.

We’re also introduced to Chad’s “second father” the genius swimming coach Graham Hill who was also the brains behind SA’s 100m freestyle relay gold at the 2004 Olympics.

We are taken on a journey with a young Durban lad who added application on his natural talent. For instance, although everyone else stopped after 500m, his hero, the greatest Olympian of all time Michael Phelps, swam 1000m in his “cool-down” after a race. So did Chad. And instead of being satisfied with beating his peers, Le Clos always measured his progress against the very best. We read throughout how his times were compared with Phelps. First it was 10 seconds; then four seconds; and, of course, when it really mattered he edged ahead.

Mostly this is a book about a young South African who achieved greatness the old fashioned way. Hard work, focus and discipline.

As Chad writes: “If you really want to achieve anything, you need to make sacrifices. I don’t mess around. When it’s time for learning – I learn; when it’s time for work, I work; and, of course, when it’s time for playing, I play. The main thing that school and swimming taught me was the need for discipline.”

From the age of 15, his daily regimen was to be up well before the sparrows; training from 5am; then off to school and back in the pool at 3pm, finally getting home at 5:30pm.

The book is also a reminder of the ever present hope our younger selves possessed, and the potency of having and retaining a dream. It also needs to be forced into the hands of those adults whose harsh words or actions can so easily crush hopes. Especially to those unathletic politicians ever determined to undermine sport’s ultimate prize, meritocracy, through imposing racial quotas.

Chad turns 24 on the 18th August. Associates in the sports business who have close contact with him say he has not been affected by fame. Certainly, there’s no “i-specialist” is evident in this smiling book. Apart from exposing us to the fascinating inner world of top-flight swimming, it shows us that role models need not come from politics, business or academia. That they walk among us. Like Bert le Clos and his even more famous son Chad.

* Alec Hogg is a media entrepreneur, writer and broadcaster. He is the publisher of Biznews.com.