Swimming

Covid-19: Chad Le Clos forced to quit luxury Mediterranean training base

22 March 2020 - 11:29 By DAVID ISAACSON
SA swimmer Chad Le Clos has had his Olympic Games preparation turned upside down, but is ready to make the best of it, he says.
SA swimmer Chad Le Clos has had his Olympic Games preparation turned upside down, but is ready to make the best of it, he says.
Image: CHRISTOPHE SIMON / AFP

Chad Le Clos landed to an uncertain future in Cape Town this week after the rampant coronavirus forced him to beat a hasty retreat from his training base in Turkey.

On Monday, he thought his immediate future was mapped out, bunkering down at his Energy Standard team's luxurious quarters at the Gloria sports arena on the Mediterranean coast.

But that was turned on its head the next day when head coach James Gibson announced they would have to leave.

"He almost wanted to cry," Le Clos told the Sunday Times.

"He comes in, says 'guys, there's no easy way to say this, we've had meetings with people who are high up in Turkey and we have to close the programme'.

"On Monday the plan was to stay six, seven weeks. Suddenly, the country is going into lockdown and hotels are probably going to be closed. We had 36 hours to get out.

"Luckily I got tickets the same night. It's such a whirlwind. One minute you're training hard, everything's gone great, and then you guys have to leave."

Le Clos will have to train on his own in Cape Town, probably at a gym pool.

"There's no real plan going forward. I have no coach, no training partners. I could be stuck here until the Olympics," he said.

I've spoken to some guys literally stuck in their homes. They can't do training
Chad Le Clos

"If they shut the gyms here, I don't have a plan B. It's scary," added SA's most decorated Olympian, with four medals.

But he pointed out he was still in a better position - at least for the moment - than many swimmers across the world who were not even able to train amid total lockdowns and strict curfews.

"I've spoken to some guys literally stuck in their homes. They can't do training.

"I was told Penny Oleksiak, the Canadian Olympic champion, she hasn't swum in 20 days, in Toronto."

Le Clos's Ukrainian teammates, including 1,500m freestyle world championship silver medallist Mykhailo Romanchuk, were stuck in Turkey because their home country had already closed its borders.

"When the Gloria shuts their doors they have to go rent a house and they have no pool to train in. They missed the date to get back home."

Le Clos and his Energy Standard teammates first experienced the impact of the coronavirus late last month on a training camp in Italy, which had been scheduled for three weeks.

They pulled the plug early after six days, leaving Naples as Covid-19 ravaged the northern reaches of the country.

Assistant coach Tom Rushton left the day after the swimmers, but ended up being quarantined en route in Switzerland for 14 days. He rejoined them just in time for Tuesday's exile.

Le Clos said he had spoken to some swimmers who felt the Olympics were unlikely to kick off in Tokyo as planned on July 24, but he said that was a risky attitude.

"I urge everyone to focus as if the Olympics is going to happen. If it gets postponed all the hard work you've done will continue to whenever it's held.

"Don't take your foot off the accelerator, don't make the mistake of thinking it might not happen, because if it takes just one percent off you, you lose out big time.

"I'm not sure it's going to happen, but rather focus like they will happen."

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