INTERVIEW: Chad Le Clos explains Michael Phelps rift

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Aiming high: Le Clos.

World and Olympic champion Chad Le Clos admits he was hurt by his verbal spat with Michael Phelps during the World Championships in Kazan, and is keen to set the record straight, but has still questioned the American’s status as a role model in the sport.

Le Clos was told that Phelps, who was not in Russia having not been selected for the US team after his arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol 11 months earlier, had said that the butterfly events have been “slow” and the South African responded by stating that his sensational 50.56 seconds in the 100m butterfly in Kazan is a time the American had not clocked in four years.

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The media quoted Le Clos as saying Phelps “can keep quiet now”.

Words started flying across the Atlantic between the South African and Phelps (who swam the US Nationals in San Antonio at the same time as Worlds) but Le Clos insists he was misinterpreted.

“They asked me a question about Michael Phelps, he was saying some stuff about me that wasn’t very nice and I felt a bit hurt,” Le Clos told Sport360° upon his arrival in Dubai on Wednesday, ahead of this weekend’s FINA/airweave Swimming World Cup (November 6-7), the final leg of the series.

“I didn’t want to fire back, it wasn’t like that. They just said to me ‘how do you feel about Michael saying the butterfly events are slow?’ and I said ‘look, I’ve just done a time he hasn’t done for four years and the time speaks for itself’.

“Then the headline was ‘Chad Le Clos tells everybody to shut up’ and then he comes along and says ‘I’ve done with trash talkers before…’.

“Firstly you must listen to what I’m saying, I didn’t slate you, I’ve always said he’s the greatest of all time, I don’t take that away from him.

“He’s my idol. Maybe not… I look up to him in swimming terms, that’s it. But if I was as great as he was, I would conduct myself in a way children would be proud of.

“I think people that watch me – obviously I get angry and I say some silly stuff sometimes – but you must conduct yourself in a way that other people can look up to. That’s what defines a champion, it doesn’t matter how much money you have, how many gold medals you have, you must be a true champion and I pride myself on being that, the people’s champion.

“I’m not afraid of Michael Phelps. That’s what everyone keeps saying ‘oh you’re taunting him’. I’m not taunting nobody. I said before that I hope he’s in good form because I want to race the best and I’m not afraid to face him one on one.”

More than three years have passed since Le Clos stole the show at the London 2012 Olympics, stunning Phelps to take 200m butterfly gold, and the South African concedes his life has been a whirlwind ever since.

With the Rio 2016 Games just nine months away, Le Clos, 23, knows that it’s time to refocus and keep his eye on the prize – that is another Olympic gold.

Last August, he was beaten in his signature event, the 200 fly, for the first time in three years as he touched the wall 0.20 seconds slower than Hungarian Laszlo Cseh to claim silver in Kazan.

Despite redeeming himself by clinching gold in the 100m fly three days later, with the second-fastest textile swim ever in the event (50.56 seconds), Le Clos still left Kazan a disappointed man.

“I’m definitely not satisfied. It was a difficult World Champs for me, obviously losing the 200 fly was an eye-opener. It was my first defeat in three years, it was hard for me to take,” Le Clos said.

“There’s many things I could have done differently, but you know I don’t make excuses, you win or you lose. There are many reasons why I never won that race but it’s not for me to say. It takes credit away from Laszlo who was the champion.”

Le Clos is looking forward to clocking some decent times in Dubai this weekend, to follow his impressive showings in Doha earlier in the week. He feels he’s 80 per cent ready for Rio, which will witness a fierce three-way battle between Cseh, Le Clos and Phelps. Would Le Clos consider talking things out with the American?

“I don’t mind. I thought I was good friends with him, clearly not. I don’t think he likes me very much,” he said with a smile. “It doesn’t matter for me. I can control the controllable, CTC.

“I know what I need to do, if I can tick all the boxes and I can be the best Chad Le Clos that I can, if I lose next year, I lose to the better man, maybe I come fourth. There’s no excuses from my side.

“If you look at all these other guys that make excuses when they lose ‘I had a bad start, I had a bad turn’… come on, what is this? Are we children? Didn’t your parents teach you not to say that?

“I know where I am and I know who I am so I don’t need any of those guys to like me.”

In a way, getting that wake-up call at Worlds was like a blessing in disguise because it showed Le Clos he needed to do better in order to add Olympic gold medals to his resume. He knows where he went wrong and knows how to fix it.

“Before Olympics all I did was I swam, I was just focused on doing that. After Olympics I’ve changed, it takes you by storm, you can’t prepare yourself for that. I think I got caught up in a lot of things, not bad things, just distracting things, things that have to be done. My time management wasn’t good and my training suffered, I’d be tired, it wasn’t optimal, it wasn’t where I needed to be,” he concedes.

“It was good enough for maybe normal, good swimmers, but I want to be above that, I want to be the best. So it wasn’t good enough for me and I think at World Champs I paid the price of maybe a year of doing all that stuff, a year and a half. And to be honest I was getting away with my 2012 base training so I’m working to get my base back.

“My distance, my 200 fly long hard grinding out sets so to speak, my speed is a lot better than it was, I’m swimming fairly fast 100 freestyle now. So that’s all good.

“But obviously I won the 200 fly at the Olympics so I can’t go and focus on too many other things.”

He’s looking forward to the tough field in the 200 fly and is not shying away from the competition.

“It’s good. I’ve always wanted to race the best, I said that before Olympics. There’s no secret why I swam butterfly, it’s because of Michael Phelps,” says Le Clos.

“I want to beat the best or I want to lose to the best. I’m not going to go look for the easy route like everyone else does. For me it’s about the race, it’s not about the time, it’s not about anything else, it’s about winning that gold medal in the moment. So I believe that on the day I could beat anybody.”

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Team Abu Dhabi target class 1 World Powerboat Championship in UAE

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Team Abu Dhabi gather for a press conference.

The 2015 UIM Class 1 World Powerboat Championship reaches its climax at Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club (ADIMSC) this weekend, with hopes running high for a historic home triumph in the UAE capital.

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Taking place under the patronage of H.H. Dr. Sheikh Sultan Bin Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Advisor to the UAE President and Chairman of ADIMSC, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix promises spectacular race action and other spectator attractions at the host club.

Team Abu Dhabi have the opportunity to produce a perfect finish to the season on home waters, as their first world title will be secured if John Tomlinson and Gary Ballough in the No.6 boat win the penultimate race of the season on Thursday.

With Tomlinson and Ballough holding a 16-point cushion, team-mates Majid Al-Mansoori and Rashid Al-Tayer in the No.5 boat will be looking to secure a runners-up position outright in the championship.

They are currently tied in second place with the T-Bone Station Italian crew of Luca Formilli Fendi and Giovanni Carpitella, with Dubai’s Victory Team partnership of Arif Al Zaffain and Nadir bin Hendi, the defending world champions, just two points further adrift. The experienced combination of Darren Nicholson and Matteo Nicolini will provide support in a second Victory boat.

With the final race of the 2015 Class 1 campaign following on Friday, the two Team Abu Dhabi crews know any mistakes could still produce a late change in fortunes, and they are determined to make it a 1-2 championship finish to the season.

The Class 1 contest sees six boats roaring to life at the weekend, with the V1 championship also reaching its conclusion as four monohull boats from Belgium, England, Malta, and Italy simultaneously tackle an exciting course off Lulu Island, which has been designed to bring spectators closer to the action.

Relishing the prospect of a first Class 1 world crown for Team Abu Dhabi since they entered the series in 2010, Salem Al Rumaithi, Assistant Director General of ADIMSC, said: “We have a superb opportunity this weekend, and we hope this will be a historic moment for the team, and for Abu Dhabi.

“One of our priorities is to ensure that Abu Dhabi delivers a great spectator experience, so we have designed the course to run around Lulu Island and pass close to the Corniche in order to give people the best possible view of the races on both days.

“We are delighted, as a club, to be hosting the climax of the Class 1 World Championship for the seventh time, and to be playing our part in showcasing Abu Dhabi as a world-class venue for water sport.

“This is a series we have supported since 2009 and we are happy to be once again staging an event which increases Abu Dhabi’s exposure in the sporting arena and promotes the emirate as a unique tourist destination.”

Spectators drawn to ADIMSC will be able to watch the high-powered World Championship racing from a specially erected grandstand, and have the chance to win a range of attractive raffle prizes.

These will include air tickets from Team Abu Dhabi sponsors and official carrier, Etihad Airways. “We are enormously grateful to Etihad Airways for their continuous support and encouragement, and we also thank Marina Mall for the invaluable backing they provide to ensure the success of our events,” said Al Rumaithi.

The first of two Class 1 races gets under way at 3.30pm on Thursday and the second starts at the same time on Friday. They will be preceded by pole position races starting at 10.30am on Thursday and 11.00am on Friday, and there will be extended coverage on Yas TV.

Lead photo caption: (L to R) Rashid Al-Tayer, Fadel Al Mansouri, Abu Dhabi Sports Council, Nicoli Di San Germano, President H20 Racing, Ahmed Al Rumaithi, Board Member of ADIMSC, Haitham Al Subaihi, Etihad Airways, and John Tomlinson.

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Record number of swimmers and countries set to arrive in Dubai for Swimming World Cup

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Fans' favourite, Chad Le Clos

A record number of swimmers and countries will arrive in Dubai on Wednesday ahead of the final leg of the FINA/airweave Swimming World Cup.

Over 440 swimmers from 56 countries will compete at the Hamdan Sports Complex on Friday 6 and Saturday 7 November after the penultimate leg in Doha comes to an end.

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They will be joined by a further 350 club swimmers as rules allow host federations to have locals taking part.

Teams from Australia, Great Britain, USA, Russia, Hungary, China, Italy and South Africa will compete in Dubai along with developing nations including Syria, Nepal, Lebanon, Tanzania, Sudan and Oman.

The results from the first day’s competition in Doha have set the stage for some exciting showdowns this weekend as many of the swimmers heading here featured in the medals. 

Katinka Hosszu (center) is one of the medal favourites yet again.

Overall leaders Katinka Hosszu of Hungary and South Africa's Cameron van der Burgh collected more medals and points, ensuring they will also collect the $100,000 overall prize at the conclusion of the Dubai event.

Last year’s overall winner and a crowd favourite in Dubai, Chad Le Clos took three golds on the first night of competition, while Australian world Champion backstroker Mitch Larkin won the 100m in a brilliant performance. 

This weekend's events will kick off with an autograph signing on Wednesday 4 November at the new GO Sports store in Mall of the Emirates at 7pm, where fans can meet World Championships medallists including Emily Seebohm, Adam Peaty, James Guy and Jaz Carlin of Great Britain, plus Lauren Boyle, Van der Burgh and Tom Shields of the USA.

The action in the pool starts on Friday with the heats at 9.30am. In the afternoon a Children’s Swimming Gala will be held for local swimmers, before the finals at 6pm. The schedule is repeated on Saturday.

Tickets are 50dhs per day and are available at the door, entry for children under 12 is free.

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