Chad le Clos recently returned from the Commonwealth Games on Australia’s Gold Coast, where he grew his legend further with three gold medals, a silver and a bronze.
He has now set his sights on the World Swimming Championships in Hangzhou, China, in December, as well as the next Olympics in Tokyo in two years’ time, where he expects to face greater challengers as a new group of young swimmers emerge.
The 26-year-old’s favorite medal from the Commonwealth Games did not come from his individual haul of golds, but was rather the bronze he collected in the 4 x 100-meter medley race, which gives an insight into his psyche. Swimming is mostly an individual sport, but Le Clos is clearly a team player.
“Truthfully, the best race for me was the relay on the final day when we got the bronze,” Le Clos tells FORBES AFRICA.
“We had guys that weren’t meant to be swimming in those events, they were specialists in other disciplines.
“Earlier, we had finished sixth or seventh [in the heats], so to touch in third ahead of Scotland in the final was amazing and it felt like a gold medal to me.
“It was really tough, but the guys put it together when it mattered and that makes it really special.”
Le Clos confirmed his status as South Africa’s premier athlete in the pool with golds in the 50-, 100- and 200-meter butterfly events, as well as a silver in the 100-meter freestyle.
“The butterfly treble was great because nobody has done that before and it was a big goal of mine. To win my third consecutive 200-meter butterfly gold was also very special as it means I have now been Commonwealth Games champion for eight years, which is a big achievement.
“So from a personal point of view I was happy with my individual achievements, though I also believe that we should have medalled in the 100-meter freestyle relay.
“But it was maybe not the team that should have gone, none were specialist 100-meter freestyle swimmers and although everybody did great times, it wasn’t enough, which was a big disappointment for me.”
Le Clos is already South Africa’s most decorated Olympian with a gold and three silver medals, a haul he is looking to add to in Tokyo, something he says will be increasingly difficult with a new generation of swimmers coming through.
“You can see them emerging and wonder how good they will be in two years,” Le Clos says.
“There is an 18-year-old Hungarian boy [Kristóf Milák] who is already just one second off the world record in the 200-meter butterfly. I think I will have to swim pretty close to the world record to get gold.
“But it is also exciting for world swimming and the sport. You need new stars and as an individual that pushes you to work even harder. It is a major source of motivation.”
Le Clos is no veteran, but he has already been in the South African swimming team for close to 10 years and is thinking of life outside of the pool with the recent launch of the Chad Le Clos Academy in his adopted hometown of Cape Town.
His dream is to have academies all over South Africa, as well as internationally, with five more planned to open before the end of the year.
“It has been a passion project of mine for the last five years and finally we have managed to get it off the ground,” he says.
“We want to start with kids as young as five years old, initially showing them how fun swimming can be before later on developing individual programs that will help them achieve their swimming goals.
“And those goals don’t have to be to make it to the Olympics. It might just be to swim for their school, or make it to the national finals. But obviously it is a dream of mine to develop boys and girls to swim for South Africa at the Olympics, that would just be unbelievable and something I would cherish for the rest of my life.”
Le Clos has helped develop the swimming program for the Academy, the first of which is based in Claremont in the Mother City, which he says is very different to how kids are traditionally trained in South Africa.
“I have always been of the opinion that we push kids too hard in their early years. So by the age of 17 or 18 they are burned out in the pool, or they have left the sport before then because it is all too much.
“The example I always use is if you have two boys, both aged 11, one is a swimmer and the other a rugby player.
“Traditionally, that swimmer would be in the pool doing 65 kilometers a week, the same training schedule as myself, Cameron van der Burgh or Tatjana Schoenmaker would do when we train for the Olympics.
“But you would not ask that 11-year-old rugby player to train against The Beast [Springbok Tendai Mtawarira], it would be madness.
“So it is all about pacing the training correctly to ensure that our swimmers peak at the right age and continue to have the love for swimming. They must want to get into that pool, not see it as a chore and something they dread.
“We also teach the kids respect for the sport and respect for their coaches, no matter what background they come from or how talented they are. That is very important to me.”
The ongoing drought in Cape Town has scuppered plans for a purpose-built facility for the first academy, but that will come, according to Le Clos.
“There has been an amazing response so far and it is the program that we will franchise out. Hopefully we will have another five opening in the next six months all over South Africa.
“We will be training the coaches according to our program, and the hope is to take it international, but for now we just want to have it running smoothly in South Africa first.”
Le Clos believes he has another “six or eight” years left to compete in the pool and hopes one day to perhaps have one of his pupils as a national teammate.
“I said to my Dad [Bert] the other day how it would be a dream of mine to walk a kid to the Olympics. It would mean so much to me. Maybe that will happen while I am still on the national team, and we swim together, wouldn’t that be something?”
– Nick Said
John Smit leaves everything on the field
A game does not end when the final whistle blows. Its impact reverberates throughout a community when the stadiums are empty. Former rugby captain John Smit, in his role as CEO of a security company, has ensured that the tournaments are alive and kicking.
As captain of the World Cup-winning Springboks in 2007, John Smit was, “Mr Right Place, Right Time”. He was the centerpiece that connected management to the players and the players to the fans.
His talents have evolved into the commercial sphere, where he now sits and curates a partnership that could save rugby and have a much more meaningful impact on the communities whose lives revolve around club rugby.
Security and maintenance company SSG Group – for which Smit is acting CEO – were, in March, named co-sponsors for the Gold Cup, a rugby tournament steeped in the blood and sweat of community involvement.
“A lot of our clientele are the mines in the North West and Limpopo area,” Smit says.
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“Those communities are massively passionate about the game and we wanted to show that this company not only wanted to leave a footprint within the community using SMEs but also, we wanted to help keep a tournament alive that is quite important to a lot of them.
“It was really just to show our gratitude for the community that we were allowed to work within. I met the Rustenburg Impala Rugby Club guys a few weeks ago and rugby is really important around that mining area.
“It’s a massive part of their culture and their working environment. When this thing happened, Jorge Ferreira (SSG Group CEO) called me to get my thoughts on what this sponsorship would entail. I said to him it’s an unbelievable partnership because everyone wants to go straight to the top but this is where the real rugby starts and ends.”
Fans pack the creaky stands, making a ruckus and cheering uninhibitedly for their sons, fathers and uncles as they put their bodies through the dirt for the sheer pleasure of it.
In most communities where club rugby is played, it’s the only recreational outlet with the gravitas that pulls 12,000 people to a game, like last year’s Pirates Grand Challenge Final between Villagers Worcester and Roses United in Worcester last year.
Put into perspective, 14,000 people watched the Stormers play the Lions at Newlands in February. Goliath-eque franchise budgets were brought to size by passionate, ordinary folk.
“There was a guy that came to one of the games on horseback. There were so many people at the game that he could not see, so he watched the game on his horse to get a view,” Smit says.
You can only get that at Gold Cup games. It’s something magically unique. These people play for free, they play for the community and they play for each other.
“The games are well-supported because the communities have a vested interest in the game – their husbands, uncles, brothers, friends, cousins, employees or employers are participating in them. Everyone comes.”
The Gold Cup portfolio landed on Smit’s desk by chance. One might say there was some alchemy involved. Ferriera’s untimely death, last year, meant Smit was redeployed from shareholding company Richmark Holdings to hold the SSG fort.
When he got to Ferreira’s seat, he saw the founder’s plans for the partnership with SA Rugby were complete. The baby was in the right hands. Smit wasted precious little time and stamped the deal.
In a time of austerity, load-shedding and budget cuts, Smit saw the forest for the trees.
“I can’t take credit for that because it was the brainchild of our previous CEO,” he says.
“I am delighted that I am a part of this and that things have worked out in such a way that made it possible. This was pioneered by Jorge Ferreira and supported by two other companies (Blu Approved and M4Jam) who made it possible.
“The unique positioning, the timing of my transition into SSG, I don’t think there would have been anyone else who understood what the Gold Cup means to this country and the communities that hold it dear.
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“It’s hard to quantify that commercially because it is more of an emotive vibe. These communities have passionate people who stick with the game after school. They are the backbone because they are not playing for money.”
Indeed, if it isn’t a man atop his steed looking for a glimpse of the action, it’s a “tannie” (older woman) selling boerewors rolls on the grass bank. It’s kids running freely along the touchline, collecting balls that have been kicked too long and returning them to their hometown heroes.
It’s a second and third chance at the game for players who’ve been hooved by professional rugby’s cut-throat contracting system – such as MB Lusaseni, College Rovers captain and former Lions lock. It’s a combination of all these factors that make a mineworker spend his or her free time in the hot sun, absorbing the Gold Cup.
HUGO BOSS Partners With Porsche To Bring Action-Packed Racing Experience Through Formula E
Brought to you by Hugo Boss
HUGO BOSS and Porsche have partnered to bring an action-packed racing experience to the streets of the world’s major cities through Formula E.
Formula E is known for its fascinating races globally. The partnership will have a strong focus on the future of motorsport. In doing so the races will host a unique series for the development of electric vehicle technology, refining the design, functionality and sustainability of electric cars while creating an exciting global entertainment brand.
HUGO BOSS which boasts a long tradition of motorsports sponsorship – has been successfully engaged in the electric-powered racing series since the end of 2017.
In this collaboration, HUGO BOSS brings its 35 years of experience and expertise in the motorsport arena to Formula E, as well as the dynamic style the fashion brand is renowned for.
Mark Langer HUGO BOSS, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) says that though they have been working successfully with motorsports over the years, he is exceptionally pleased that as a fashion brand they are taking the cooperation to new heights.
“As a fashion brand, we are always looking at innovative approaches to design and sustainability. When we first encountered Formula E, we immediately saw its potential and we are pleased to be the first apparel partner to support this exciting new motorsport series,” he says.
The fashion group is also the official outfitter to the entire Porsche motorsports team worldwide.
The fascination with perfect design and innovation, along with the Porshe and Hugo Boss shared passion for racing, inspired Hugo Boss to produce the Porsche x Boss capsule collection.
Its standout features include premium leather and wool materials presented in the Porsche and HUGO BOSS colors of silver, black and red.
Since March, a range of menswear styles from the debut capsule collection is available online and at selected BOSS stores. In South Africa the first pieces of the capsule will come as a part of the FW 19 collection.
Alejandro Agag, Founder and CEO of Formula E says he is confident that the racers will put their best foot forward on the racecourse.
“This new partnership will see the team on the ground at each race dressed with a winning mindset and ready to deliver a spectacular event in cities across the world. As the first Official Apparel Partner of the series, we look forward to seeing the dynamic style and innovation on show that BOSS is renowned for,” says Agag.
Oliver Blume CEO of Porsche AG says Formula E is an exceptionally attractive racing series for motorsport vehicles to develop.
“It offers us the perfect environment to strategically evolve our vehicles in terms of efficiency and sustainability. We’re looking forward to being on board in the 2019/2020 season. In this context, the renowned fashion group HUGO BOSS represents the perfect partner to outfit our team.”
For Xolani Luvuno Its Mind Over Matter
A story of hopelessness, drugs and crime and an athlete who conquered land and sea, on crutches.
Xolani Luvuno will enter this year’s prestigious New York City Marathon flying the flag of South Africa, but this is no ordinary athlete; he will complete the run on crutches.
Luvuno’s story is one of hopelessness, drugs and crime, but then a life turned around in the most remarkable fashion as he became an ambassador for good; taking on, and defeating, some of the most grueling athletic pursuits on the planet. All with one leg.
Luvuno continues to defy the odds and, ahead of his journey to New York, will also compete in a full IRONMAN African Championship event, in April, which includes a 3.8km swim, a 90km bicycle ride and a 42.2km run.
That would present the mightiest of challenges for an able-bodied athlete, but Luvuno must do all of that having had his right leg amputated 11 years ago, after he developed cancer in the bone.
The 34-year-old has already proven his superhuman mental and physical strength after completing the 89km Comrades Marathon on crutches last year, and followed that up by completing a half IRONMAN event in East London in South Africa earlier this year.
“I started running as a distraction from the substance abuse that had gripped me earlier in my life; it focused my mind in other areas and gave me a purpose,” Luvuno tells FORBES AFRICA.
“The events are one part of it, but the training is what helped me the most. In the townships, a lot of the drinking and alcohol abuse happens over the weekend, and that is when I would go running. I would head out with my crutches in the morning, and by the time I had finished, I would just crash at home and sleep the rest of the day.
“It provided me with a new interest away from drugs and alcohol and motivated me to do something with my life. I really needed a change at the time, and running provided me with that.”
Luvuno’s teenage years were difficult. Falling into the grip of substance abuse, he ended up living under a bridge in Pretoria and spent five years in jail, having been convicted of housebreaking.
He would beg, steal and borrow to fuel his drug habit, before his life was turned around by a chance meeting with Hein Venter, at a traffic light in 2016, who took pity on Luvuno.
Venter gave him a job in his perfume factory and it was from there that his running career was born.
“I could see his potential and I wanted him to meet new people, away from his old life. Good people, normal people who he could use as role models,” Venter says.
“We created a running club within the company and, literally overnight, two-thirds of the employees took up running. It was amazing! Xolani had his challenges, but he didn’t want to miss out and started to go out with them too.”
Venter arranged formal accommodation for Luvuno in Mamelodi and had a prosthetic leg made.
He was later sponsored with a running blade, an attachment for his leg that should have enabled him to compete with able-bodied athletes. But, as a result of the long-distances involved in marathon running, he began to develop sores and returned to running with crutches.
But his progress was incredible, and within 18 months, he was lining up in one of the world’s most famous road races, the Comrades Marathon, albeit five hours before the scheduled start of the race, completing the event in 15 hours and 50 minutes.
“I always finish a race, no matter how long it takes me, I will never quit,” Luvuno says. “I always want to push myself further, to break down new barriers. After I completed the Comrades, I needed a new challenge.
“That is when I turned to IRONMAN, though cycling and swimming were completely new to me. But after four or five months of intense training, of really hard work, I was ready.
“Now I want to complete a full IRONMAN in April, that is my next challenge, and after that, it is the New York [City] Marathon. My entry for that has been accepted, it will be an amazing experience.”
Luvuno’s story is an incredible tale of triumph over adversity and how, even in the depths of despair, there is always the opportunity to change the situation. He is now also a motivational speaker, mostly sharing his story with school children, many of them handicapped themselves.
“It is something I have a passion for, it allows me to give something back,” he says.
“There was a time when I was not society’s ally and I accept that, but that is in the past now and I can only look forward to the future. Maybe my story will help some youngsters gain perspective and take on the valuable lessons that I have learned.”
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