Chad Le Clos kicks off with medal trifecta attempt
Chad Le Clos will bid for a tough medal trifecta at the Commonwealth Games on Friday that could prove critical to South Africa’s hunt to recapture fifth place on the medals table.
Le Clos is in action in Gold Coast on Thursday in the 50m butterfly heats and semifinals‚ but on Friday he will be pushed to the limit‚ trying for a trio of podium finishes in the space of two-and-a-half hours.
He has the 200m freestyle heats in the morning‚ and then he comes back in the evening for his triple trick‚ the first of the seven medals he’s aiming for to become the most decorated Games athlete of all time‚ with 19 gongs.
First comes the 50m ’fly final‚ followed by the 200m freestyle final just 19 minutes later.
And two hours after that‚ assuming his teammates have qualified for the 4x100m freestyle final‚ Le Clos will compete in that final.
His best chance of gold lies in the 200m race‚ where he took the Olympic silver at Rio 2016.
Team South Africa‚ seventh at Glasgow 2014‚ will need around 15 gold medals to finish fifth‚ although 16 will equal their best-ever haul from Vancouver 1954.
SA will be fast asleep when the country’s first medal hopes dive into action at the Games on Thursday‚ Simone Ackermann and Gill Saunders in the women’s triathlon (1.31am SA time).
The nation will have started stirring when the more realistic chances start in the men’s race (5.01am)‚ where Olympic bronze medallist Henri Schoeman and Richard Murray‚ third at Glasgow 2014‚ will attempt to topple England’s mighty Brownlee brothers‚ Alistair and Jonathan.
There is a clutch of SA swimmers in action in the pool on Thursday‚ although gongs are unlikely on the opening day.
The one mark of the SA swimming team is that they selected a fairly wide group of youngsters to blood. Schoolgirl Dune Coetzee and Kristin Bellingan are both making their Games debut in the women’s 200m freestyle.
US-based Marlies Ross‚ the third SA swimmer in that event‚ will want to make more of an impression than she did last time in Glasgow.
Luan Grobbelaar is another schoolkid getting his first taste at this level‚ competing alongside Ayrton Sweeney in the 200m breaststroke.
If any of them can qualify for Thursday’s final‚ then they will elevate their status to outside medal shots.
Even in non-medal encounters‚ there are some critical contests across various codes.
The women’s hockey team‚ fourth in Glasgow‚ take on England in their tournament opener on Thursday (6.32am).
In lawn bowls‚ the men’s trips face off against Wales (4am) in what could be a must-win encounter if they want to advance out of their so-called group of death which also includes England.
Colleen Piketh renews hostilities with Northern Ireland’s Catherine Beattie in her opening singles encounter. Piketh beat Beattie to the bronze medal at Glasgow 2014.
SA’s netball side open their account on Friday (7.02am) against Jamaica‚ a pivotal showdown that is likely to decide their fate.
Defeat in their first game at the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre could condemn them to also-rans.
SA’s history at the Games is littered with lesser-known athletes winning medals‚ but it’s imperative for the big-name bankers like Le Clos to score.