South African swimmer Chad le Clos has opened a swimming academy in Cape Town, few days after snatching three gold medals involving two records at the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia.
The 26-year-old Olympic and World champion says the academy will serve the next generation of aspiring athletes in his country and beyond.
“The academy has been a passion project of mine for about five years and I’m launching it for the next generation of aspiring young athletes,” Le Clos said at the inauguration on Sunday.
“I want people with a positive attitude to have the opportunity to be the best they can be and have fun.
“Athletes should not be retiring at 17 or 18 years old because they worked too hard when they were young.
“I really want to see the growth of swimming as a sport‚ both in SA and ultimately across the world‚ by helping existing swimmers improve and encouraging beginners to learn our sport and develop life skills,” he said.
Le Clos remains the most decorated swimmer in the Commonwealth Games history with 19 medals‚ five of them won in Australia this month.
In Gold Coast, he won gold with new records in the 100 and 200 metres butterfly, gold in the 50m butterfly, silver in the 100m freestyle and bronze in the 4×400 m medley relay.
“We are by far the best swimming nation in the world pro rata‚ with two world titles out of a possible 19‚” Le Clos said.
“South Africa does not even have 3‚000 registered swimmers and we have two [world] titles. America has 300‚000 swimmers and nine titles.”
Le Clos started competing at the age of 8, winning five medals at the 2010 Summer Youth Olympics in Singapore.
The Chad le Clos Academy was opened at the Quadrant in Claremont‚ but he hopes it will be the first of many.
The structured programme aims to change instruction from beginner to elite level and to focus on stroke development and fitness from the age of five.
“I really want to see the growth of swimming as a sport‚ both in SA and ultimately across the world‚ by helping existing swimmers improve and encouraging beginners to learn our sport and develop life skills‚” said Le Clos.
Learn-to-swim and elite programmes will be implemented at future venues in collaboration with partners. In the long term‚ the Clack Academy aims to expand to international venues.
Kathryn Nurse‚ an academy director‚ said: “It is a privilege to partner with a sportsman of such high calibre and a gentleman of such true humility. We are confident that we can take his vision and make it a reality.”
Academy director and board member Julian Taylor said: “As South Africa’s most decorated swimmer‚ Chad le Clos has already ensured he will always be remembered as an icon.
“Hopefully this academy will be able to play another key role in expanding his legacy at all levels of the sport‚ both at home and abroad.”
Le Clos said he hoped to be able to live in South Africa full time after the next Olympics in 2020.
“I am in a position to give back and have a positive influence over kids‚ which is very powerful‚” said the down-to-earth champion.
“Thanks to all South Africans for their support and the positive message for the future of South African swimming.”