|Unbelievable: Bert le Clos raving about golden boy Chad|
IT’S being described in England as the best inerview of the London 2012 Olympics so far. The moment Bert le Clos, father of golden boy Chad, let it all hang out on the BBC.
Interviewed by Clare Balding high in the stands, bearded Bert could barely restrain himself after seeing the world’s greatest Olympian Michael Phelps beaten to the touch for a 200m butterfly triumph which secured South Africa’s best-ever double-gold start to a modern Olympiad.
Viewers around the world laughed and cried as Bert raved: "Unbelievable, unbelievable, unbelievable. I’ve never been so happy in my life. It's like I just died and went to heaven. Whatever happens in my life now, it’s plain sailing. It’s plain sailing.
“Unbelievable. He’s the most beautiful, down-to-earth boy you could ever meet in your life.
“Fabulous. My boy Chad? He's beautiful! What a beautiful boy! Sorry, sorry. Look at him! He swims like you can’t believe. I love you. Oh my God.
“My other son is here, the small one, he’s somewhere out there, I can’t find him. He’s all over the place, you know. It’s not easy to get tickets. Unbelievable. Thanks Great Britain. Thank you very much."
Proud dad Bert’s 1min 45sec video meltdown is, legally, unavailable to South African viewers. Hopefully some technical guru will sneak it on to our screens later today. His gruff South African tones reflect the pride of a nation as Le Clos added to compatriot Cameron van der Burgh’s world-record breaking win on Sunday night in the 100m breast-stroke.
Chad, 20, went in to London 2012 admitting: “My time will come at Rio 2016,” and the lad who matriculated from Westville Boys’ High in 2009 was nearly overcome by emotion when Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika echoed around the packed Aquadome for a second time in three nights.
As a stunned Phelps – later to win a record 19th medal in the 4x200m freestyle relay – threw an arm round his nemesis, Chad himself told the cameras: “To be honest I was lucky. Watching all Michael's races I know he finishes strong. It sounds crazy but I actually thought I was Michael at the last turn.
”Ever since I was 12, watching Athens 2004 when he won six gold medals, Michael has been an inspiration and role model.
"I have all his major races on my computer, I’ve watched the 100m butterfly final at Beijing 2008 a million times, when he beat Serbia’s Milorad Cavic by 0.01 seconds. I think I’ve seen that in seven different languages."
"When I turned there was a trigger point. I looked at him and I just thought I could try do something special. The last 25 metres were in slow motion and I just remember thinking to myself: ‘Don’t shorten up, keep it long.”
He did. And South Africans were treated to perhaps the most dramatic victory possible with bemused commentators raving about Phelps’s “rookie mistake”.
Le Clos could yet threaten the podium again in the final of Friday’s 200m individual medley. Remember, South Africa didn’t win a single gold in Beijing four years ago, where Khotso Mokoena’s long jump silver was the only thing of value brought home from a cheerless trip to China.
In fact you have to go back to Atlanta in 1996 to find a more successful gold haul, when Penny Heyns (two in the pool) and Hosiah Thugwane (marathon) triumphed in the USA.
Now South Africa, currently the leading African nation at the games of the 30th Olympiad, stand on the verge of serious success. Tomorrow, the men’s lightweight four of James Thompson, Matthew Brittain, John Smith, Siswe Ndlovugo in to the final at Eton Dorney as fifth fastest qualifiers.
But given their second place at the Lucerne World Cup earlier this year, a medal is not beyond the realms of possibility. Remember, Le Clos was 50-1 to win gold against Phelps.
I’ve been to a couple of Olympics and witnessed how athletes feed off each other’s success in the village and around the venues. I suspect that may be the case here, with Team South Africa going in to the athletics on Friday with renewed confidence, real self-belief.
Sascoc’s predicted 12 medals remain a distant hope but I reckon South Africa could finish with ten gongs… and this is where the medals could be won:
Thursday 2: Rowing: Men's lightweight four: Brittain, Ndlovu, Smith, Thompson
Friday 3: Men's 200m Individual Medley: Le Clos
Saturday 4: Men’s long jump final: Mokoena
Sunday 5: Men’s 100m final (Usain Bolt) and women’s marathon with strong SA team
Monday 6: Men's 400m hurdles: LJ Van Zul
Tuesday 7: Men’s triathlon: Richard Murray
Thursday 9: Women’s K1 500: Bridgitte Hartley
Thursday 9: Women’s javelin final, Sunette Viljoen.
Friday 10: Men’s BMX final: Sifiso Nhlapo
Friday 10: Men’s 4x400m relay: four from Oscar Pistorius, Van Zyl, Fredericks, Ofentse Mogawane, Willie de Beer and Shaun de Jager.
Saturday 11: Final of women’s 800m: Caster Semenya
Sunday 12: Men's mountain biking: Burry Stander