Wesley Botton

By Wesley Botton

Chief sports journalist

Schoenmaker leads medal charge, as Le Clos targets Games history

After skipping the World Championships earlier this month, Schoenmaker should be eager to hit the water.

He won’t line up as the South African swimmer with the best chance of reaching the podium, with the likes of Tatjana Schoenmaker and Lara van Niekerk aiming to dominate the women’s breaststroke, but Chad le Clos has an opportunity to make history when the Commonwealth Games gets underway in Birmingham this weekend.

In terms of medals, for the country’s top contenders in the pool, we must look to the women’s contingent.

Back in charge

Despite being stunned earlier this year by teenager Van Niekerk at the national championships, Schoenmaker will still be expected to lead the national charge.

The 200m breaststroke world record holder skipped this month’s World Aquatics Championships in Budapest in order to focus on her 100m and 200m title defence in Birmingham, and she should be eager to hit the water.

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Van Niekerk, meanwhile, will be hoping to build on her impressive form this year by adding to the bronze medal she earned in the 50m breaststroke at the World Championships, while Olympic finalist Kaylene Corbett will also want to make an impact in the breaststroke finals.

Another teenager, Matthew Sates, will be equally hungry for a podium place after the versatile 18-year-old reached the 200m individual medley final at the recent global championships.

While his younger compatriots attempt to stick up their hands, however, all eyes will be on Le Clos throughout the gala.

Twelve years after he first stepped on the podium, the 30-year-old swimmer is chasing a medal record which would make him the most decorated athlete in any sport in the history of the Commonwealth Games.

Le Clos
Chad le Clos has a major Commonwealth Games record in his sights. Picture: Getty Images

At the last three editions of the showpiece, Le Clos has earned a total of 17 medals, and he needs just one more to equal the Games record of 18 held by shooters Phillip Adams of Australia and Mick Gault of England. Two more medals would put him out front on his own.

Turning out in a handful of individual events, Le Clos will also be hoping the national relay teams are able to shine in order to boost his chances of making the podium.

Even if he doesn’t win gold or bag individual gongs, that sort of longevity is remarkable, and any medals from Le Clos would be worth celebrating.