Olympic, World, and Commonwealth Games champion Chad Le Close has chosen a new permanent training base.
The 30-year-old South African star best known for beating Michael Phelps In the men’s 200 butterfly a decade ago will soon join coach Dirk Lange‘s Frankfurt program to prepare for a fourth Olympics at Paris 2024. Le Clos said he’ll represent SG Frankfurt after he finishes recovering from surgery on his sinuses.
“I am excited about this new partnership with Dirk,” said Le Clos, who is South Africa’s most decorated Olympian with four medals. “He is a world-class coach who knows how to bring the best out of his swimmers. Looking forward to having Frankfurt as my new training base.”
Lange was the head coach at swimming South Africa for four years before becoming national coach of Germany in 2008 and then taking over Mexico’s program in 2012. Notably, he mentored South Africa’s Cameron van der Burgh, who became Africa’s first home-trained world record holder and first individual male Olympic champion in 2012 Olympic with a victory in the 100 breaststroke. He also served as an advisor to swim programs in Croatia, China, and Lithuania.
Earlier in his career, Lange helped develop standout swimmers such as Olympic medalist Sandra Volker of Germany and former short-course World champion Mark Foster of Britain during his 25-plus years on the pool deck.
“I am very happy that Chad has made the step into the training group,” Lange said. “We have good conditions and an internationally excellent short and middle distance concept, which is unique in Germany with many young athletes from whom we expect a lot in future. Training alongside an Olympic Champion will benefit everyone.”
Although the long view is focused on Paris 2024, there will be stages of preparation that come with their own goals. First up on the to-do list is getting ready for December’s short-course World Championships in Melbourne. Le Clos needs six more individual medals across his career to tie Ryan Lochte‘s record total of 24 at the meet.
“Chad is an outstanding athlete with insane potential who has missed out a bit of the new development in swimming in the last two years,” Lange said. “We are now at the starting line of the first stage on the road to the 2024 Olympic Games. Each stage will have its own intermediate goals. It will be a long journey to Paris and it will take some time to bring him back to the success he deserves.
“The first goal is the World Short-Course Championships in Australia,” Lange added. “His first start in Germany will be the World Cup in Berlin before he will attend the German Short-Course Championships in Wuppertal.”
With Le Clos’ new Frankfurt destination offering funding and a permanent practice facility, former coach Sonny Trigg said he understood how the decision was a “bit of a no-brainer.” Since February, they bounced around between South Africa, Dubai, Turkey, the UK, Spain, France, and Monaco. Joining them along the way in March was Britain’s Max Litchfieldbut the lack of a home base made the setup unsustainable.
At the Commonwealth Games in late July, Le Clos took silver in the 200 fly with a time of 1:55.89. The performance marked a rebound of sorts after withdrawing from the World Championships in June due to bronchitis.
Earlier this year, Le Close detailed his bow with depression in 2021, which he called the worst year of his life. A traumatic event last January sent him spiraling down a dark path, but he began to turn things around once he started seeking help from a therapist in the wake of a disappointing Tokyo Olympics.
Last December, Le Close nearly flew home from short-course Worlds because he was worried that he hadn’t trained properly in six months due to physical and mental health issues. But he stayed, motivated by the goal of becoming the most decorated swimmer in the meet’s history, and ended up bringing home medals in both the 100 and 200 fly.
“We are very happy to welcome such a top-class swimmer like Chad le Close to our team,” said SG Frankfurt president Michael Ulmer. “He is a super athlete and his move is a credit to our work, our region, and our training center. All athletes in the training group will only benefit from such a man, because they can learn and develop from his personality and his professionalism as an exceptional class athlete.”