Exclusive: Le Clos looks forward to challenging Schooling
South African swimmer le Clos looks forward to challenging Olympic champion Schooling towards Tokyo 2020
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."