Chad le Clos, Tatjana Schoenmaker ready to raise their levels in Gqeberha pool
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By Karien Jonckheere
LONDON Olympic gold medallist Chad le Clos has admitted he’s unlikely to set the swimming world alight with blisteringly fast times at this week’s SA Swimming Championships.
The event, which acts as Olympic trials, gets under way in Gqeberha today.
But Le Clos has admitted he’s been struggling with an injury for over a month.
“Preparation in January-February was excellent and then I had a bit of a shoulder injury. I just tweaked it out – a bit of ligament trouble. So I’ve been babying that for the last five weeks, but it’s still been a great pre-season. Am I ready for nationals? Absolutely. But I’m not going to set the world alight this week,” he said.
“I just want to get some racing in, more than anything,” added the four-time Olympic medallist who has been entered in the 50, 100 and 200m butterfly and 200m freestyle events.
Le Clos has been inspiring a bunch of the younger swimmers who are hoping to qualify for their first Olympic Games. One is 17-year-old Ethan du Preez, the other is Pietermaritzburg teenager Matt Sates. Both have beaten the 28-year-old star in recent weeks.
“I have trained hard and I’m always excited to race.
“I had a great Durban Grand Prix, missing the 100m butterfly Olympic time by just 15 split seconds,” explained Sates.
“I have been privileged to have Chad as my training partner since January and his mentorship has been one I will never forget … I could not have done any more at this stage and during this last crazy year to prepare.”
Meanwhile, apart from Le Clos, another swimmer who’ll be shouldering plenty of SA’s medal hopes in Tokyo is World Championships silver medallist Tatjana Schoenmaker, who’s entered into the 50, 100 and 200m breaststroke events in Gqeberha.
“Training has gone really well. We’ve been working really hard on going faster in the shorter distance to push my times in the longer distance,” explained the Pretoria swimmer.
As for the prospect of competing at her first Olympics finally becoming a reality after the postponement of the trials and Games themselves last year, Schoenmaker reckoned: “It does make me even more excited but also gives me butterflies – a good kind of nervousness.
‘I can’t believe we are a little more than 100 days away from the Games. It feels surreal to think my dream of competing at an Olympics is about to be realised.”