At the 2012 London Summer Olympics, South African swimmer Chad Guy Betrand le Clos made history by denying Michael Phelps the gold medal in the 200m butterfly. Both le Clos and Phelps made the final at the Rio Olympics for the same race, setting up a rematch that will have the world breathlessly watching. The 24-year-old le Clos has already won a medal in Rio, taking home silver in the 200m freestyle.
Here’s a look at le Clos’ life and career.
1. Le Clos Has Been Swimming Since He Was 8 Years Old
Le Clos was born in Durban, South Africa and went to Westville Boys High School there. He started swimming when he was only 8 years old and began competitive swimming two years later. He told Sport24 in 2012 that he also played soccer, but he wanted to focus on swimming when he turned 15.
“I played soccer up until the age of 15 but I realised swimming was going to take me a lot further than soccer would,” he said. “I also played a bit of rugby at primary school and enjoyed the other sports but swimming was my passion.”
Also in that interview, le Clos said that he didn’t have much time for hobbies, but he does like going to the beach. “I’m also a huge PlayStation/FIFA fan. So, we usually gather on a Thursday which is usually our recovery day and eight mates come over and we play three a side, which is pretty cool,” he added.
2. His Father Became a Star at the London Games With His ‘Unbelievable’ Interview
After le Clos’ historic win over Phelps in 2012, le Clos’ father Bert became a superstar with his BBC interview, which you can see below. Bert le Clos, who was born in Mauritius and came to South Africa at 9 years old, could not stop calling the race “Unbelievable.”
Bert le Clos is still using the “Unbelievable” catchprase. He and le Clos’ mother, Geraldine, both made it to Rio to cheer him on.
Bert le Clos’ side of the family is huge. “My dad is one of 10 children so you must understand the support that I have (laughter) millions of aunts and uncles and cousins. Just alone at the SA trials, I had 62 people there, supporting me,” le Clos told Sport24.
3. Both of le Clos’ Parents Are Fighting Cancer
Both Bert and Geraldine le Clos made it to Rio, but they are also fighting cancer. According to the New York Times, Bert was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2015. Geraldine fought breast cancer, which came back in May.
“It’s been difficult, obviously,” le Clos told the Times. “Getting into the pool, I feel like I’m unshackling myself from the worry and the stress. Swimming definitely takes my mind off things.”
“It is wonderful to be here but it is hard,” Bert le Clos told USA Today about being in Rio. “We wouldn’t miss it, we couldn’t miss it and I can’t wait to see him compete with Phelps again. He looks great and he is showing great form.”
4. Le Clos Was Honored With the Order of Ikhamanga for Raising South Africa’s Image in International Swimming
In 2013, the South African government awarded le Clos the Order of Ikhamanga, an honor given to those who achieve in the arts, culture, sport and other fields. He received the honor for:
His excellent achievements on the international swimming stage, especially at the London Olympics in 2012, thus placing South Africa in high standing globally in the field of Aquatic sports.
Le Clos has three of South Africa’s 15 swimming medals at the Olympics.
5. Le Clos & Phelps Were Planning a Great White Shark Dive After London, but Their Relationship Soured in 2015
Le Clos and Phelps were friends at one point, as Le Clos frequently referred to Phelps as an inspiration at the London games. Even after beating Phelps, he called him “the greatest” on Twitter:
Phelps even told Bob Costas that he was talking about going to swim with le Clos to see great white sharks in South Africa. “Hopefully we’ll be able to keep in touch and I’ll be able to get down there sometime this year and we can go out and dive,” Phelps said at the time.
But last year, the relationship frayed. At the U.S. Nationals, Phelps had the best 200m butterfly time of 2015 and said that he thought the race slowed down recently.
“Michael Phelps has been talking about how slow the butterfly events have been recently. I just did a time he hasn’t done in four years. So he can keep quiet now,” le Clos said after the World Championships race, which Phelps didn’t participate in.
“Chad liked me, and then he didn’t like me. He said I was his hero, and then he was calling me out,” Phelps said in response.
Then, the latest chapter of the rivalry came on Monday night, when Phelps gave a death-stare before the semifinals and le Clos kept walking around and looking at Phelps.
“Everybody has their own race strategy of what they do,” Phelps later said, notes ESPN. “If that’s his, then that’s his. I tried to not really pay attention.”