Wesley Botton

By Wesley Botton

Chief sports journalist

Le Clos not falling short of expectations

Chad le Clos is South Africa's most decorated Olympian with four medals and this week he has displayed that he can still challenge at the highest level.

It’s not unusual for a prodigy to fall short in terms of expectations.

What is unusual is for a prodigy to fall short and bounce back.

When talented athletes don’t reach their potential at the peak of their careers, they tend to slowly fade from prominence and we don’t really hear about them again.

As well as he has done in his career, it seemed Chad le Clos had reached that point and was on the verge of vanishing from the public eye.

Fortunately for South African sports fans, Le Clos is no normal athlete, proving again this week that he is nothing short of a living legend.

ALSO READ: Chad le Clos reclaims global at World Short-Course Champs

Facing multiple issues over the years, including injury problems that somewhat derailed his progress and personal trouble that absorbed some of his focus, Le Clos never achieved the level of success that was predicted when he stunned American icon Michael Phelps to win 200m butterfly gold at the London Olympics in 2012.

He went on to become South Africa’s most successful Olympian, raking in a total of four medals, but he fell well short of taking Phelps’ place on the mantle as an international phenom.

He has never given up, however, and has never been shy to talk a big game, but he proved this week by winning the 200m butterfly title at the World Short-Course Championships that he was by no means a spent force and still had enough fight in him to challenge younger opponents at the highest level.

It can’t be blown out of proportion. The short-course format is not as competitive as swimming is in a 50-metre pool, and the world’s best butterfly swimmers were not all in Melbourne.

But Le Clos was phenomenal, setting a personal record in his best event as he made an emotional, long-awaited return to the top of the podium.

This doesn’t mean he’s going to win a long-course world title next year or another Olympic medal in 2024, but it does prove that he still has the hunger he displayed as a teenager.

Regardless of what else he might achieve, or what direction his career takes from this point, his commitment to his career and his country is truly noteworthy.

If he hadn’t already earned legendary status, he has now.

He might not have achieved all he could, but he gets endless points for not giving up, cementing his place as an icon of South African sport.

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