Chad le Clos is certainly not one to wilt under the pressure of expectation.
The South African swimmer looks set to be one of the stars of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, which he says he will enter with the expectations of a nation “on his shoulders”. And, as if that was not enough, the 23-year-old has now revealed an ambitious target: to break Michael Phelps’s two butterfly world records in Brazil.
“The Rio Olympics are my main focus,” Le Clos told rio2016.com in an exclusive interview. “I will be in the best shape of my life for Rio and gold is on my mind.
The butterfly races are on my mind and Michael Phelps’s butterfly world records (100m and 200m) have been on my mind since I won gold in London.”
The gold Le Clos was referring to came at the London 2012 Olympic Games, when he shot to fame at the age of 20 by beating Phelps, the most successful Olympian of all time, in the 200m butterfly final.
Phelps, who beat Le Clos in the 100m butterfly final in London, retired after those Games, with 22 Olympic medals, 18 of which are gold.
He has since announced his intention to compete in Rio and during the last week has posted highly impressive times in the 100m and 200m butterfly at the US championships. However, Le Clos, who won the 100m butterfly gold medal at the world championships in Kazan, Russia, said his targets for Rio are clear.
“Obviously the 49.82 seconds (Phelps’s 100m butterfly world record) will be the toughest – Michael was the first one to go below 50 seconds,” said Le Clos. “But I am feeling good and will be in great shape. The main thing I need to work on is my front end, as the second half of my race is much stronger.”