S'pore plays big role in le Clos' Olympic ambitions

He rose to the pinnacle of sporting success when he took the butterfly crown at London 2012, but that has only whetted Chad le Clos' appetite for more Olympic success.

The South African swim sensation could be in line for at least five medals at Rio 2016, with an aim to better his London tally of one gold (200m fly) and one silver (100m fly).

Said the 21-year-old, who could line up for the 100m and 200m fly, 200m and 400m individual medley, and medley relay in Brazil: "It makes me more hungry... Once you win for the first time, I think it's like a drug you can't get rid off.

"I want to leave a legacy behind," said the Durban native, who out-touched now-retired American pool legend Michael Phelps in the final five metres of the 200m Olympic final.

"I don't just want to be remembered as the guy that beat Michael Phelps. There's something else that I want to be remembered as also, whether it's nine gold medals (to surpass Phelps' record of eight at a single Olympics) - I'm joking - we'll see."

It was in Singapore, at the 2010 Youth Olympic Games (YOG) - where le Clos won five medals in his first overseas meet - where his journey to London began.

Said the swimmer, who also took the butterfly double (100m and 200m) at July's world championships in Barcelona: "YOG for me was the start of everything. Coming off not much international experience, heading straight to YOG, and winning my first gold medal and hearing the national anthem for the first time.

"As each competition that came along I grew in confidence and got better with my swimming."

And Singapore is also set to play a big role in his build-up to the 2016 Rio Games.

Today at the Singapore Sports School, le Clos continues his assault on the eight-legged Fina World Cup short-course circuit and could possibly rewrite his own 1min 49.04 sec world record - after coming only 0.03 sec away at the Dubai leg last month.

It is clear that his motivation has not waned even with the retirement of Phelps, who has been both le Clos' hero and target for the past 10 years.

He said: "I still need to train like I'm second best.

"It's going to take a much quicker time than I took last year to win at 2016 so if I'm just swimming the same that I am, then people are going to beat me so I need to keep improving."

He stressed that even though he is now an Olympic champion, his hunger for success has not diminished. He is still as hungry as he was when he was an unknown. He still clocks the countless hours in the pool.

Yet, while the swimmer may take pains to ensure fame does not dilute his ambitions, there is not denying that his London feat has changed his life.

Three years ago, The Straits Times spoke to le Clos about the YOG over sambal stingray and satay at Newton Food Centre. Then, he was carefree teenager who happened to be a really good swimmer.

Yesterday, the Omega brand ambassador sat down for an exclusive interview with ST in the confines of a hotel suite, surrounded by minders and sponsors, as an Olympic and world champion - the man who beat Phelps.

Today, he longs for the taste of Olympic gold again.

But back in the city where it all began, he finds comfort and familiarity in things more easily attainable: roti prata, curries and chicken wings.

For even if the taste of Olympic success still lingers, that of Singapore cuisine will suffice for now.

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