Exclusive: Le Clos looks forward to challenging Schooling

South African swimmer le Clos looks forward to challenging Olympic champion Schooling towards Tokyo 2020

Chad Le Clos of South Africa at the Men's 100m Butterfly preliminary heats at the Rio Olympics 2016.

American swimming legend Michael Phelps has been a childhood idol of South African Chad le Clos, and in recent years, his greatest rival in the pool.

With Phelps hanging up his goggles after the Rio Olympics this year, the 24-year-old former Youth Olympic champion foresees a great rivalry with Singapore's Joseph Schooling in years to come.

"I definitely think Joseph has a lot of potential for sure, he's won an Olympic gold," said le Clos in an exclusive interview with The New Paper on Thursday morning (Oct 20), after touching down in Singapore from South Africa for the Fina/airweave Swimming World Cup on Friday and Saturday at the OCBC Aquatic Centre. 

"For the next six or seven years (we will have a great rivalry)... and I am very excited about that. I am also very excited about the 100m fly next year (at the World Championships)."

"I'd like to beat him there, of course," he added, with a chuckle.

Schooling, 21, stormed his way to a historic gold medal in Rio in August, clocking a new Olympic record time of 50.39sec to beat le Clos, Phelps and Hungary's Laszlo Cseh, who all finished joint-second.

Gold medallist Joseph Schooling (SIN) of Singapore poses with joint silver medallists Michael Phelps (USA) of USA, Chad Le Clos (RSA) of South Africa and Laszlo Cseh (HUN) of Hungary. PHOTO: REUTERS

"I was very surprised (with the final), obviously I went into the race thinking that I could win, but he smacked us out of the water. I wouldn't say he caught us off guard, but he definitely stunned us a bit."

While his silver in the 100m fly, as well as his silver in the 200m free were celebrated in his country, he was devastated to finish fourth in the men's 200m fly final, in 1min 54.06sec.

He said: "That 200m fly race for me, was the worst of my career; I did a time that I did when I was 18. 

"With respect to Michael and everyone else, it was a relatively slow final. I prepared really well and I really thought that I could come away from the Olympics with two gold medals.

"It wasn't all I wanted but at the end of the day, it's not the end of the world. I am still young, and I have another Olympics or two in me, for sure."

Le Clos will be seeking redemption in the men's 200m fly at the World Championships next year in Budapest, but he will also be looking to make a strong statement in the 100m fly.

He said: "The 200m fly would be more important than anything else because it had to be done, but since the London Olympics I always felt that my 100m fly was my strongest race.

"So next year, the 100m fly would be very important for me as well... the next four to five years would be very good; with Joseph and myself, I feel that we can create some really fast 100m fly times."

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CPIB investigates alleged bribery attempt after STTA raises alarm

Officers from the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) paid a visit to the Singapore Table Tennis Association's (STTA) Toa Payoh headquarters yesterday, with sources revealing that a national men's player and his relative were being investigated for alleged attempted bribery of an official from the national sports association.

The New Paper understands that national men's player Li Hu was the paddler in question, but it remained unclear what prompted the alleged bribery attempt that was brought to the attention of authorities by the STTA.  

In addition to the paddler and his relative, the CPIB also took statements from STTA officials.

When contacted, the STTA declined to comment on the matter as investigations are ongoing.

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Li is currently ranked 58th in the world and struck gold at the 2015 South-east Asia Games held in Singapore. He was part of the men's winning team and partnered Gao Ning to win gold in the men's doubles gold. He also clinched a bronze in the mixed doubles.

He is the Republic's second highest ranked men's paddler, with Gao Ning sitting 17 spots above him in 41st spot.

While Gao made it to August's Rio Olympics, Li did not.

He was beaten to the qualifying spot by teammate Chen Feng (world No. 149) in the final of the South-east Asia segment of the table tennis Asia Olympic qualifiers in Hong Kong in June.

The men's team did not qualify for the Olympics.  

This year, Li's best showing was a second-placed finish in the men's singles at the Australian Open.

Different focus for South African swim star Schoeman

He was part of a South African relay team that made Olympic history, but winning's not that important these days

MENTOR: Former Olympic gold medallist and world champion Roland Schoeman (above, left), conducting a swim clinic at the Hougang Swimming Complex yesterday.

He was part of the team that won the 4x100m freestyle relay at the Athens 2004 Olympics, the first time South African male swimmers captured gold at the Games.

While his younger teammates like Chad le Clos and Cameron van der Burgh begin to chart their path towards Tokyo 2020, Roland Schoeman is unclear if he will work towards a fifth Olympics.

The 36-year-old, who will be competing in the Singapore leg of the Fina/airweave Swimming World Cup 2016 presented by Yakult tomorrow and on Saturday, will take two years off swimming, starting in 2017, possibly to enrol in studies to become a chiropractor.

"I have a scholarship that I can take up either at the beginning or middle of next year, and I am seriously considering it," said the former world champion, after a clinic with about 40 swimmers from Swimdolphia Aquatic and SportCares yesterday at the Hougang Swimming Complex.

"I am at that point in my career where I have been training so hard for so long that it's going to be nice to take a step back.

"I still want to stay fit, in shape and conditioned. I don't want to stay away from swimming completely.

"Look at a guy like (35-year-old Olympic champion) Anthony Ervin - he took a long time away from the sport, and he still came back and was still successful."

While there is speculation that le Clos might move to the United States to train, following his recent split with long-time coach Graham Hill, Schoeman believes the former Youth Olympic champion will remain in South Africa.

Talking of his countryman, Schoeman said: "I think now is as good a time as any for Chad, but I don't necessarily believe he will go to America.

"He is a very family-oriented guy and my understanding is that he will probably move to Cape Town and have his family based there as well."

Asked if he had spoken to le Clos about his 100m butterfly final loss to Singapore's Joseph Schooling at the Rio Olympics in August, Schoeman half-joked: "No, no, I think that's a very, very sore subject (for Chad).

"But I think Chad knows that even if he had swum at his very best, he wasn't going to beat Joseph.

"That is testament of who Joseph is and the swimming he has done."

As for Schoeman, winning races is no longer his sole focus.

"The last time I swam the World Cup was in 2014, and I missed the opportunity last year as I was focused so much on the Olympics," said the freestyle and butterfly sprinter, who missed out on making a fifth Olympics this year. "All of a sudden, you realise that there's more to life than just winning a gold medal.

"Now I appreciate the fact that there's more than just the racing - there's the interaction, the building of friendships and contacts and the sight-seeing... hopefully, I can impart some knowledge and wisdom, and motivate swimmers today not to take things for granted."