Doha, 29 November 2018. South African swimmer and 2012 Olympic champion Chad le Clos is currently in Doha to prepare for the upcoming 14th FINA World Swimming Championships taking place in Hangzhou, China from December 11–16, 2018. While using the five-star swimming facilities at Aspire Zone at Hamad Aquatic Center and Aspire Academy, the 26-year-old athlete, who holds 13 World Championships gold medals in 50m, 100m and 200m butterfly also used the opportunity to take a guided tour of the Academy on Wednesday. Thereby, he reflected on his own days as a young athlete and spoke about his sources of motivation.
What went through your mind when you were walking through Aspire Academy?
To be honest, I was very impressed. I have been coming to Qatar for many, many years now. To be honest, I’ve only seen half, or maybe a quarter of Aspire Academy back in 2014, 2015. So today was the first time I got the chance to see everything including the recovery labs, the football centers, the school, the library, it’s just phenomenal. For me it’s the best facility I’ve ever seen. I think just the whole Aspire Academy is a great concept to give kids the opportunity to learn, to recover, to train, to study everything under one roof, where everything can be really done efficiently. So for me I wish I had these opportunities as a youngster. It’s a phenomenal concept.
Would you have liked to be a student at such a place when you grew up?
Honestly for me, like I said, if I was here I would be so motivated to be in school again. At 26 years old it’s the best facility I have seen. I think for me, for the kids actually, they have to be very motivated, because you get to go to school in the morning up to 10 o’ clock. Then they train for an hour and a half, have their recovery, have their lunch, back to school and back to training. So everything is done within the day. Of course, it’s a long day, but it’s exactly what young aspiring athletes need. You know, when I was young, my dad did a similar thing to me. He would actually pull me out of school sometimes a little bit early. Maybe at the time it was not a good thing, but it was exactly what I needed as a youngster back when I was in high school. Now you can say that here it’s a legal better way of doing it at Aspire Academy.
You have become a very successful athlete. What was your biggest source of inspiration?
I think my goal was always very simple. As a kid I always wanted to be the best that I could be. My dad taught me never to give up on my dreams and never listen to naysayers that want to bring you down, because in life you would have a lot of people that are jealous of you and of this opportunity. Just go out there, have fun and be the best that you can be. At the end of the day, if you can give a 100 percent, you know in whatever result comes, you can be proud of yourself.
What is the most important skill that you need in order to become a top athlete?
I think what you need is the character. That’s very important. I think with all the great facilities, but the kids must understand that they need to work hard and they need to believe in themselves. They can’t have the coaches believe in them and not them believe in themselves. It’s all about belief, all about looking back and having the visualization of whatever you want to achieve. My dad always used to say to me “Be the best version and go win your Olympic gold medal”, which does not mean go and win the Olympics, but be the best athlete that you can be. If that is making it to the Olympic Games and making a final, that’s still a great achievement.
You had the chance to meet some young swimmers from Aspire. What was your impression of them?
I think I’ve seen a lot of young potential and what’s very important is the mind. I believe that’s more important than you think. You need to have strong will power, strong determination and it’s going to come from you. It can’t from the parents, it can’t come from the teachers. Hopefully they can find that and achieve great things. They are five star and all the kids are really, really good. I think they are born in 2007 and they would kick my ass when I was eleven years old, that’s for sure. You have everything here, it’s unbelievable really and it’s a privilege for me to be here to be honest with you.
Since you have been coming to Qatar for many years, what do you think about the development of sports in the country?
I think it’s looking great. Since I’ve been coming here in 2013, the football stadium has changed about five times and I think it’s complete now, which is fantastic and hosting big events draws a lot of people and has amazing positives in the long term I think, especially during the games. Obviously, next year is the World Athletics Championships and I am looking forward to hopefully coming and watching that if it does not cross with my schedule and, of course, the big one in 2022. It’s four years exactly in November, December. It’s going to be perfect conditions and I am sure it’s going to be one of the best World Cups ever.