The Preparation of Chad Le Clos by Graham Hill, Swimming South Africa (2013)



[introduction, by Richard Shoulberg]

Good morning, my name is Dick Shoulberg; it’s an honor to be the President of ASCA.  Last September I flew over to this wonderful country called South Africa.  It was fantastic: the air was different, the sky was different.  And I went out in the bush for two and a half days and it was just… I will never forget it.  And now I am going to listen to Coach Hill, so would you have the pleasure of starting off this conference.  Thank you.


[Hill begins]

Good morning everyone.  It’s a great honor to be here to present the preparation of Chad Le Clos for 2012 Olympics.  I think I am a little bit more nervous to do this than I was in London before the 200m Butterfly, but we will get through it.  I am sure the things I’ve got to say today most of you know already, especially the workouts and how we put it all together.  But I would like to talk to you a lot about the things that maybe you don’t see in the preparation towards an Olympic Games and trying to win an Olympic gold medal.  So that’s basically what my talk is going to be about today.


Just a bit of background on myself: I have been coaching for 24 years; I have been fortunate enough to go to four Olympic Games.  In Sydney, I had two swimmers there: Terence Parkin and Charlene Wittstock.  Terrence went on to win a silver medal in the 200 Breaststroke, and Charlene went on become Princess of Monaco.  In Athens, I was the head coach of the team; there I had two swimmers on the team: Terence again and Darian Townsend who was a member of the 4×100 Freestyle Relay that won the gold medal and broke the World Record.  In Beijing, I had two swimmers: Melissa Corfe and Jasper Venter.  And then onto London, where I was the head coach again and I had five swimmers on the team with Chad Le Clos winning a gold in the 200 fly and silver in the 100 fly.


I was named the Head Coach of Swimming South Africa in March 2011 and the objective for London was to establish South Africa’s Swimming power, the world Swimming power, and to assert it as the #1 Olympic sport in our country and try to win two medals.  The irony of it all was in those two medals, what we told our Olympic committee and the country, was not the two medals that Chad Le Clos was going to bring, it was for sure the one Cameron van der Burgh was going to win in the 100m Breaststroke and we were hoping to win a medal in the 4×100 Free Relay.  We did this for a reason; and as you will see as the talk goes on, I had quite a few things on the quad just to not put so much pressure on Chad, it being his first Olympic Games and doing what he wanted to do, what his dream was to do.


The preparation of Chad was planned 24 months in advance.  The real preparation was, obviously, the endless years and training before that: 12 years of training Chad—I had him since he was a young boy of 8 years-old.  But the real planning towards what our goal was going to be in London 2012 happened about 24 months prior to it.  The relationship we have, Chad and I, is very close; he is more like a son to me.  I actually knew the family before Chad started swimming with me, and I am sure all of you have seen his father on TV, unbelievable Bert Le Clos.  Yeah it’s been quite a challenge just with his father, never mind Chad.  But when I talk about the planning 24 months in advance, I will talk about some of the things we’ve done around the world and the traveling we’ve done and the various competitions we’ve been to.  But it all started in 2010, where we really believed that Chad could do something at the 2012 Olympics in London.


But going back to the early years, when he first arrived Chad was a breaststroker, he wasn’t really a butterfly swimmer.  He was a good breaststroker and a really good [individual] medley swimmer.  And the whole idea was to prepare him for the 400 Medley in the future, and not so much the 200 Butterfly.  And he sustained an injury when he was 16.  So when I said he was a breaststroker, he could swim 2:16 200 breaststroke long course at the age of 16, in just briefs; which I thought was pretty good.  And we were going to prepare him for 400 medley; he was swimming around about 2:06, 2:05 200 medley.  So it was pretty useful on the strokes.


But he loves soccer, he loves playing soccer.  He still talks rubbish about wanting to play for Man United when he has finished Swimming, but that’s not going to happen.  He sustained an injury in his groin, and unfortunately that injury he carried for quite a few years and hence the problem on the breaststroke leg of the medley.  We did get through a lot of big meets with that injury.  Commonwealth Games, he still became 400 medley champion, and numerous World Cups he was getting away with it, with the short-course swimming—the turns—so he was able to hide the injury on the groin.


So once that injury happened, and basically it all started in 2008 after the Beijing Olympics—when Michael Phelps won the eight gold medals.  I came back from those Games and Chad said to me he wants to be like Michael Phelps: he wants to swim butterfly like Michael Phelps and he wants to beat Michael Phelps.  And when I talk here today, please don’t think I’m arrogant and talking about it; but it’s just the belief and what we truly believed we could do against Michael and at the Olympic Games.  So I am not getting in your face and telling you, you know, that we were better or anything; we really just believed we could do it, and the belief Chad and myself had in how the whole event will unfold.  But that was it: here is a young boy telling me.


At first it was a shock for me as well, because I’ve just watched Michael win eight gold medals.  I have been to all Olympic Games where Michael swam, and obviously watched him very closely.  And now my young boy at 16 is telling me he wants to beat Michael Phelps in the 200m Butterfly.  Chooses the hardest event, the one Michael hasn’t lost for ten years.  And it took some time for me to really realize that this dream, or this passion, to win 200 butterfly could happen.


The regular communication, that I am talking about there, Chad and I—as I said earlier—we have a very close relationship.  He doesn’t live too far from my house, so he is always hanging around and showing me videos of Michael Phelps, obviously.  That’s the regular communication: two/three times a day, we talk outside of being at practice.  So it’s a really close relationship we have.


The regular rest and recovery that I am talking about.  Chad likes to sleep a lot, which I am sure all top athletes like to do.  But every day Chad will have at least a two-hour nap during the day, somewhere in between his training.  And his recovery, he likes to be massaged; he really responds to massage a lot.  So he is massaging twice/three times a week maybe; he gets it done on a regular basis.


The hands-on management of the activities is probably the most important thing that I will speak about today.  I like to look at it as: I am in the middle of the whole operation, handling matters; and around us, I have surrounded us with a professional team that’s positive and supportive to what we wanted to do.  I mean to go find people to put around us that we are going to be involved in trying to beat Michael Phelps in 200 butterfly, it took some doing, because a lot of people thought we were a bit mad to do something like that.  So I was controlling all that kind of stuff: the physios, the doctors, the strength conditioning coaches, the families—my family and his family—the federations, the sponsors, the managers.  So all those kinds of things, that people don’t think about and you think it just happens.  Yes, you have to do the hard work in the pool and all the big workouts that have to be done and the traveling and the racing; but all that other stuff that gets involved, I believe you have to have a hands-on approach to that.  If you don’t, it can get out of control, and you can end-up losing your athlete to doing too many functions or too many appearances.  You know, it just spirals out of control.


And then to minimize the distractions, I think it’s become quite a famous thing about Chad.  That in this day-and-age of cell phones and Twitter and Facebook and all that; just like any other young guy, he was heavily-involved in all that stuff.  And we made a rule that he would have no cell phone.  He was allowed his phone from eleven o’clock on a Saturday, after morning practice, and handed back in on Sunday 7 p.m.  So that was the only time he was allowed to use his cell phone.  We just found that he was getting to morning practice and he was tired.  And then we realized why: he was at one, two o’clock in the morning, sitting on Twitter or Facebook or whatever else.  So he understood it and he understood the sacrifice that had to be made to get the results, and we took away the cell phone.


Obviously, what you put in is what you get out—I firmly believe in that.  And what you can’t do in training, won’t happen in the race either.  My whole team philosophy is this.  We have to work really hard in practice.  A lot of people ask me how we get up day-after-day and swim the sets we do. We have one recovery session a week.  And to answer you, Yannick Agnel’s coach, Fabrice [Pellerin], said the same thing: we don’t really know how they do it; they adapt to it and they get on with it.  And… yeah, that’s… if we can’t do the practice, we won’t be able to do it at the race pool.


My sessions: we do nine sessions a week.  We practice on Monday 2, Tuesday 1, Wednesday 2, Thursday 1, Friday 2 and then Saturday 1.  That’s the general practice throughout the year.  We average between 55,000 and 60,000 meters a week.  And then three times in the year, we will push that up; and we will do ten workouts where I will do 2 on Monday, 2 on Tuesday, 1 on Wednesday, 2 on Thursday, 2 on Friday and then 1 on Saturday.  And I have just found this has really worked well for me.  Things did change a little bit, as you will hear later on, with Chad when he left school; we rearranged the program so that he could swim a little bit later.  But I am sure all of you have the athletes where you’ve got to be up there at five in the morning, so that they can make to school later on.  So it’s pretty tough, but it does get a little bit easier once your athlete has finished school and we can do morning practice a little bit later.


I have got two training sets up here that Chad really likes to do, and we alternate these on a Saturday.  And the first one there is 300 skips, were it is 300 swims, 300 kick, 300 pull, 300 swim—that’s his warm-up.  And then the set begins.  We will start with 16×100 fly; he will go on… this is all long-course swimming, in meters.  He will go 16×100 fly on 1:30; and he needs to hold… he needs to average there round-about 1:01 for those 16×100 fly.  Take like a minute rest.  Straight into 4×200 back, okay.  He will do those on 2:30 sendoff; one easy, one hard.  The easy ones, he will go around about 2:15, 2:12; and the hard ones it will be around about 2:04, 2:05.  Then another minute’s rest, and we will go 4×200 breast.  Here, obviously with the groin, we have to be a little bit lighter on him there, but he would go on a 3:00 send-off there; one easy, one hard.  The easy ones going around about 2:35; the hard ones trying to swim close to 2:20.  And then the 400 frees at the end: he goes 4×400 free on 4:45 send-off; and he has to hold all of them around 4:10.  That’s a pretty tough set that he has to do—well, I think it’s pretty tough.


And you will notice that most of our training is medley, as I said.  And that applies to most of my squad: we do a lot of medley training.  And obviously bearing in mind that we were trying to do something really big in the 400 medley.


Another set that we do, as I said we alternate these two sets every Saturday.  This is my favorite set, I like to do this set.  And this set comes very much from the Hungarians.  We are very fortunate—well we have been very fortunate—for the last four/five years that the Hungarians have been coming out to train with us.  They come in two waves: two different groups come-out, February-March, for three weeks at a time.  And we were very fortunate having Chad… and in those two Hungarians groups, we had László Cseh, who I am sure you all know got the three silvers to Michael in Beijing; and then in the other group, we have Dávid Verrasztó who is a very good 400 IM swimmer who swims 4:10 400 medley.  So we had Dávid in the one group and László in the other group, so it was really great for Chad to train with him.  We were getting six weeks of really good work with two different groups.


But onto this set.  The 400 warm-up, the kick, the pull, and then 16×50, reverse IM was the warm up.  And then the main set goes: 400 IM.  He is leaving on 5:15 send-off.  He has to descend them.  And then straight-into 8×100 paddles, on 1:15 holding 58s.  And he does that set four times.  And when he does the 400 IM, the best I have seen him come down to is 4:21, okay.  And the 8×100 paddles: he is pretty comfortable at holding 58s there.  And then, obviously, a 400 easy swim, and then some other work—just some really easy kicking and stuff.


But that’s the two main sets that he does, and he kind of likes them.  So, you know, it does help when someone at this level enjoys swimming sets like this.  He is getting a bit older now, this was when he was still young; so I don’t know whether he will still be liking it in a year or two’s time.


But just to talk about some of the things along the way and what it takes outside of those sets and the hard work that we do at the pool.  The team support.  Obviously I was very fortunate to be involved with the federation and to be the head coach.  It’s kind of tough to be the head coach of the National Team and to train some individuals.  And a lot of people say, you know, aren’t I a little bit biased to my swimmers or whatever, but it’s actually the complete opposite for those coaches that know me.  I’m most probably tougher on my own swimmers than on the rest of the team.  And I firmly believe in the discipline of the team, and that’s how I coached Chad and the rest of my team back home.


But having the support of coaches around me.  You can see there in that picture there, the guy standing right next to me is actually a Russian guy; so that discipline, you can imagine.  But he was basically my wingman, so to speak; he was my backup throughout the whole two-year journey towards the Olympics.  And he stood by me and helped out when there were problems and I needed to get things sorted out.  The other guy standing next to him is also a coach, who was a big support role as well.  And standing next to them, with the glasses on, is our CEO of Swimming South Africa.


And I don’t know how it works in America and that, but we need… in South Africa, we need to get everybody on board.  And I can really, truly, say thank you to Swimming South Africa and to our Olympic committee and everything.  I know a lot of the coaches have questioned me and asked how is it and what’s happening back there and is it all good and that.  But I can tell you right now, without the support and the things they did and moved mountains for us to get to where we did in London, it could have never been possible; they really gave me everything that I needed to win an Olympic gold medal.


That goes for the political side as well.  Obviously the politicians all like to get involved, you know, when it gets to the big show.  You don’t see them for ten years, then all of a sudden they’re all on the pool deck and they want to be part of the show—I am sure you are all used to that.  But yeah, so it was really great for the help on that side as well; administrative side, the sports scientists and medicine, the doctors that traveled with us.  And you know, we are not such a backward country where we didn’t have sports scientists with us.  And you know you are sitting with most probably one of the best, Jonty Skinner, who is South African.  We learned to travel with all that.  And you will see, as I speak about the actual race in London, how we learned a lot about Michael and the way he raced and the things he did.


And then obviously the parents.  You know, if you don’t have the parents’ support… unfortunately, I know as coaches we don’t like to see the parents too often.  You know, when I coached Terence Parkin, who by-the-way was deaf—I always said I would like to coach a deaf orphan.  But the parents obviously play a vital role, especially in the younger years when they need to bring the kids to practice and pay the fees and make sure everything is good for us.  Obviously as the swimmers get older, you don’t see the parents so much; they come in their own cars.  It’s quite a journey to see them growing from 8 years-old to driving their own cars to practice.  But you need the parents involved, and as I said before, I knew Chad’s family before Chad actually started swimming with me, so it did kind of help a lot.  Obviously there have been some rocky roads along the way.  Being so close to his parents, we have tended to disagree to agree on certain things.  But it’s all worked out good.


And then obviously my family.  To have my family support… you know for those of you who haven’t traveled to Olympic Games or prepared a swimmer for Olympic Games, it’s very important to have your family support.  There is so much traveling to do, and so many other things involved, that take you away from home and from your family.  So the team support, the whole team around it: it wasn’t just about me or Chad, it was the whole team effort to do what we did.


That [on slide] is a very famous photo in South Africa; a lot of newspapers use that photo.  To race the opposition, I felt that was one of the key things.  It was a little bit difficult with Michael, because obviously if we wanted to race Michael all the time, we would have to come to America.  First to come to America all the time, with the time zones and things like that, it wasn’t suited for us.  We tend to race a lot in Europe.  There is no time difference for us in Europe; it’s an eight-hour flight, and we are in Europe with no time difference and it’s really easy for us.


But to race the opposition, the best place for us to race Michael was going to be on the World Cups.  They use to go to Moscow and to Berlin.  Although it was short-course racing, it was still good enough for us to… just for Chad to be comfortable around Michael. I didn’t want him to come to London and not know Michael or be intimidated by Michael.  So what I tried to do with all our opposition—obviously Michael was the main opposition—we like to go and race all the people that we felt would be a big problem for us.  And fortunately enough, a lot of the people went to race in Europe.  They raced the series called the Mare Nostrum.  It’s a really tough series, most of Europe is there.  The Japanese love to go there as well, so Takashi was there—he finished third at the Olympics.  So it was really great and important for me to see how the opposition race. And like I said before, we had our sports scientists videoing and taking notes of what we had to see in order to possibly win the gold medal.


Untapered and unshaved, I talk about there.  With Chad, I was really tough with him; and maybe I should be a lot tougher on other kids.  But, you know, only certain kids can handle the amount of toughness you can be on them as a coach. They are not all the same; very fortunate that Chad is mentally very tough.  And there were many events where I didn’t allow him to shave.  And when we talk about the journey that started back in 2010, we had really big competitions that year for Chad: he had the Youth Olympics, which was in Singapore; and three weeks later he had the Commonwealth Games, which was really a big competition for us in South Africa–Commonwealth Games is really big—and then at the end of the year he had the World Short Course in Dubai.  So we had three major competitions.  So basically I had to make a call: which one was our main one.  And obviously Commonwealth Games being part of the Olympic Committee, it’s really important for us to get funding to swim really well at a competition like that.


And so we went to Youth Olympics and I was quietly confident that he did swim really well at Youth Olympics.  So we didn’t shave or rest him for that, because three weeks later we were going to go into Commonwealth Games.  And he swam pretty good there; he picked a gold and three silver, so it was pretty good but he was still doing some huge work.  And then we went into Commonwealth Games, and that’s where he won the 200 Butterfly and the 400 Medley.  It was great for us; all of a sudden now, he was on Olympic funding and it was really good for us, a good result.  And then we went into World Short Course in Dubai, unshaved again.  And he became a World Short Course champion there, which was a pretty-good result for us being unshaved for an event like that.


A lot of the time… you heard me speak earlier about when we go to Europe, and we spent a lot of time in Europe.  As I said, before the Olympics, before London, we were in Europe for three months, okay.  So we didn’t go home for three months; we stayed in Europe.  Some pretty nice places we went to: we were in Monaco and Barcelona and Canet—which is in the south of France.  And it does help to have the Princess of Monaco helping us out while we prepare for the Olympic Games.


But the competitions that we were doing there, the Mare Nostrum—for those of you who don’t know—happens in Monaco, Barcelona and Canet—that’s three series.  And there too we were still in full training and unshaved and swimming some really fast times.  The year of the Olympics, the goal was to swim 1:55 in our 200 butterflys in all three meets, unshaved and unrested.  And when I say he was unrested, he was still going about 10Ks a day while he was swimming these 1:55s.  So thing were looking pretty good, to be able to swim 1:55 200 fly and still swimming 10Ks-a-day is pretty good going.  And our confidence was growing more and more as London was approaching.


The testing strategy and the tactics for London, to fine-tune obviously was happening there on the Mare Nostrum like I was talking about.  But one of the big tests that we do with Chad, we swim a 150 butterfly about ten days out, okay.  And the year before, when we had the World Champs in 2011 in Shanghai, we stood up and he went 1:24.6 for a 150 butterfly.  So when he stands up and does that, he still is not shaved, he does put a suit on; but he was 1:24.6, which was pretty good.  And he came out with a 1:54 at the World Champs, finishing fifth.


A year later when we did that same test, before we moved into the Village, we were in Monaco, we were about ten days out and we did the same 150 test.  And he stood up and went 1:23.2.  And the shape he was in was a lot better than the year before.  And that’s when I really knew that he had a serious chance to swim 1:52 and possibly beat Michael.  I was banking on Michael swimming 1:52 as well, so.  From that test there, that’s really when… I remember phoning home, back to South Africa, and saying: I think we are ready.  We’ve got ten days to go; everything is looking really good and Chad is feeling very confident.


And the tactics for London.  Obviously, it was to race Michael.  I mean it was his dream, it was a belief, to beat Michael.  And I don’t think I can even explain to you how much Chad has respect for Michael, you know.  I think if Michael had finished 6th and Chad had finished 5th, he would have been happy with that.  You know, it wasn’t even about winning the gold medal, he just wanted to beat Michael Phelps.  And the tactic for racing against Michael, obviously you know we weren’t really looking at anybody else.  I mean, it’s a little bit harsh to say, obviously everyone in the field is wanting to win, but Michael is the odds-on favorite.


And the tactic to race against Michael: we had watched video after video, I think Chad can commentate and tell Michael about his own races better than Michael can talk about his own races.  That’s how much this boy is obsessed, if you want to say, by Michael Phelps.  We watched Michael’s videos, and watched them over and over and over again.  And we notice that Michael would be really, really strong out the first 100 and really put a lot of pressure on the third 50; and if anyone was still around going into the last turn, he would obviously do the famous on underwaters that he is known for, and at the end of that, there would be no one left to challenge him on the last 50.


So we basically trained for that: we prepared ourselves to get to the 150 mark with Michael, or slightly off Michael, and then match him on underwaters.  And for those of you that have seen the race, you can see that Chad is pretty good on the underwater work.  And if you have a really good look at the race, go back and have a look at it, you will see that his underwater work he actually goes about an extra meter-and-a-half further than Michael.  And when he came out, he came out really strong, he looked really good.  And, you know, we were always going to swim behind Michael and swim over-the-top on the last 50; I just didn’t plan it to be that close.


And for the first time, Chad actually listened to what I asked him to do.  You know, in a lot of the races, he just comes up with his own things, but he swam it to perfection.  And like I said I don’t want to sound too arrogant or whatever, but going into that race we were really, really confident: he had done the work and he was looking really good through the heats and the semifinals.  And you know, going into the race—like I said I don’t want to sound like…—but at 100 meters, the way he was positioned and the way he was traveling, I was quietly confident that he was going to win.  I didn’t realize that he’d leave it that close.


To instill the confidence in him.  Obviously I have spoken about that, with the different speeds and races that we were doing.  And we changed tactics quite a bit on a few of our races.  We were a little bit worried—and that sounds a bit paranoid.  We were a little bit worried that other countries were not performing the way he was going to race, and so we were kind of mixing it up a little bit when we were racing in Europe.  We were racing Takashi and the Japanese quite a bit.  So we raced different races in Europe, and just do different things; just do play around a bit, just not to give away too much.


Create the belief.  Well I don’t think that’s a great photo to create the belief, because I don’t think he could believe it when it happened.  But with myself, with athlete, the coach and all those other people involved in it, to say that we are going to beat Michael and do what we did, I had to get that within Chad’s brain—which is not an easy thing to do.  But he wanted it so badly, he would have done anything to get the end.  And as I have showed you before, the sets he did and the work he did, it was really good; and he believed that he could do it.


Just to tell you a quick story about Chad and what makes him so special.  What I am trying to get across to you guys here today is that… you know, everyone knows the sets that we do.  I am sure some of you are doing those same sets and all that.  But I believe it’s more of a personal connection, it’s a relationship, between you and the athlete.  And you have to understand the athlete.  I think with Chad I have got him down to… pretty much right on the button now; 12 years, or 13 years, I have been with him now.


But the one important thing with Chad is mental toughness—I spoke to you about.  There is no way I can treat some of my other athletes the way I treat Chad.  Okay.  He is really tough and he understands, and he doesn’t take things personally.  And I don’t know whether it happens in America, but in South Africa a lot of the kids, if you say something to them, constructive criticism, they take it very personally; and they go, Ah, I don’t want to swim with this coach anymore, he is picking on me or whatever.  But Chad is very good like that; he is not like that.


I will give you an example.  We were training up at Pescara—which is another one of those terrible places in Europe, on the coast of Italy.  And we are doing some crazy sets there; and it happens to be one of those sets; that 16×100 butterfly set.  And it happened while you guys were swimming your trials here in America.  And we were on the last week of training there, of really big work there, before we went to Monaco to start our taper and prepare them for London.  So we were doing the last sets on the Saturday; and we always like to travel on the Sunday, when we are traveling, because obviously that’s the day off and we don’t want them to miss workout, so we always travel on the Sunday.  And on that Saturday, we had done that 16×100 IM set.


And when I say we, we went to Europe with some training partners.  We just felt that we couldn’t just go with our Olympic team.  Obviously five or six of our swimmers are based in the U.S., they stayed in the U.S.  And so we had only been traveling with about five or six other swimmers; and we don’t travel with a big team of 40, 50 like you guys or Australia—we travel with really small teams.  So we decided to take some training partners; and we took a training partner along with Chad, we actually took two.  And they were doing that set, and they were alternating, those two guys.  One guy is a 4:15 400 IM, and the other guy just got fifth place at Worlds in Barcelona, now he is a 3:47.  And these guys had to alternate the sets with Chad because they couldn’t keep up—that’s how well he was going in Europe.


And we got to that last set, and we did the 16×100 and everything was good.  We did the 4×200 back, everything was good; the 4×200 breast, everything was good.  And then we got to the 4×400 free.  And we had done a really big three-week block, and the temperature must have been 38° outside.  It was really hot and we hadn’t seen rain for three weeks.  And we got to the 4×400 free, and these guys couldn’t get under 4:20.  Okay, it was really bad.  But I was quietly confident, I didn’t want to show them that I was going to be a little bit weak and let them off.  so I like kind of threw a tantrum and said, “Look, we are going to start again; we are doing this whole set of again.  Start again.”  And the two training partners looked at one another as if I was mad, and Chad just said, “Okay, when we are we leaving?  What’s the sendoff?  When are we going?”


And they started this set again, and I knew there is no way they were going to do that that whole set as I wanted it again.  And they got to probably about the eighth 100 butterfly and it just wasn’t happening.  There’s no way they were going to repeat that set.  And I said, “Now look, guys just get out.  We’re traveling tomorrow to Monaco; I will see you at the plane.  I don’t want to speak to you; it’s no good.”  And “Chad, how do you expect to beat Michael if you can’t do the four 400s at the end?”  You know a bit of the reverse psychology.  But deep down, I knew he was prepared, he had done the good work and he was ready to go.


And why I am telling you this story is because this is the difference with Chad.  We went to lunch that day, and the two training partners sat at the other table.  They didn’t really, you know, have eye contact with me; they were really quiet and everything.  And Chad just came and sat right down at the table with me and ate lunch, and you know as if nothing had happened.  And then he said to me, “Coach, do you want to go back this afternoon to the pool?  Should we do the set again?  Let’s try to do the set again.”  And you know for me, you know something like that, if you can do that and there’s no hard feelings and there is no personal attachment to it, you know that’s what makes him a little bit different to others.


The trust and the passion.  Well I think I have spoken about that passion and that belief that he had to be able to win the gold medal.  But the trust, I think this is one of the crucial things in the relationship we have.  We trust one and other to the bitter end.  You know he trusts me.  I know a lot of coaches wanted him to come out to swim in college out here, and you know he said, “Well, I don’t need to do that if I am going so well in South Africa.  If I can stay home.  And I trust you with the program.”  And I thank him for that.  I thank his parents and him for having the trust in me to be able to work with him.


At the end of the day it also means, you know I mean for any of you out there, a Chad Le Clos could come through the door tomorrow and you know then you are on your way.  You need to work with them and build that relationship.  And who knows, maybe you will be beating Chad in 2016; I hope not.  But you know that’s the kind of trust that we have with one another; and the relationship that we have built, the hard work and the dedication.  I think that’s why when he was on the podium and he was sheading those tears on that day, he knew what had gone into the program and what work had gone in and what we had sacrificed along the way.


And it’s not an easy road, and that’s why I am talking to all of you here.  Those of you who haven’t experienced an Olympic Games, I have been fortunate as I said earlier to have four behind me.  And I learnt everything from along the way.  I learned from a lot of the coaches that are sitting here today.  You may not know it, but I was the guy walking around behind you in the shadows just watching everything you were doing and picking-up on everything.  And I am still learning.  I am going to sit through the next day or so, and pick-up some things and learn there and move on.  But it’s been a great journey.


And just to talk you through that final day.  I believe that he was a bit of a destiny child, Chad, with the result that we got.  But just on that day of the 200 butterfly, and this is what I say, you know we were really confident that we could win.  The day of the final, I still remember, we were in our room at the Village, and I said, “Hey, should we Skype home quickly?  Should we talk to my wife quickly?”  And we got on the computer and had a quick Skype to my wife and my children back home, and I think they were more nervous than us.  They were saying, “Hey, you’ve got to get to the pool.  You’re racing in three hours, you’ve got to go.”  And Chad was going, “Ah, don’t worry; everything is fine, and you know everything will be good.”


And when he was reporting to the call room.  And he looked at me and he said, “There is something wrong: I am too relaxed here.  This is not good.”  I said, “No, it’s good, you’ve done the work, you’re confident, you really do believe that you can win.”  And he looked at me and he said, “Well, is there any last minute advice?”  Any… you know, and we had been over how we were going to swim a million times; he knew exactly how he was going to race.  So I needed to say something to him; I know he was looking for me to say something to him.  And I said to him, “Chad, this is the last time Michael will swim 200 butterfly.  If you want to beat him, you have to beat him tonight, because if you don’t….”  [laughter]


And just another quick story of how it was all unfolding for us.  I say he was a destiny’s child, while you guys in America were all looking for the big showdown between Ryan Lochte and Michael, you know we were quietly waiting for Chad against Michael.  And just… I don’t know how many of your coaches are superstitious, I am not really that superstitious, but the way the events were unfolding it was all pointing towards a show down for Chad and Michael.  In the Village, we were in the one block and right next to us… I could look into the Americans rooms from my room.  So that was the first thing, that we are right upon their doorstep.  And then at the massage area at the pool, we were here; right across the walkway was the American team.  At the ice baths was another area.  When Chad was in the ice bath, Michael was in the ice bath.  So it was like everything was pointing towards things like that.  You know, it was all lining up for us quietly, we were looking at that.  Like I said, it was destiny for him to win.


I will give you a story about 2010.  I told you how he won the 200 Butterfly short course in Dubai.  On the first day of short course is the 400 Medley, where he finished 5th—this was 2010 Dubai.  And three days later, he lined-up in the 200 Butterfly in lane number 5.  In lane number 6 was the Brazilian, Kaio Almeida, from Brazil; he was the World Record holder, in lane 6.  Chad beat him by 0.05 of a second.  2012, two years later, day one of the event, Chad swims the 400 Medley, he finishes 5th.  Three days later, he lands up in lane 5; in lane 6 was Michael Phelps, the World Record holder.  And he beats him by 0.05 of a second.  So that’s just the way it ended up.


And for all of you out there, I just hope I’ve shed some lights on the other things that happened, other than the training and what goes on and the road.  And good luck to all of you.  Thank you.



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