For over 10 years he has held us in his thrall, his gold medal at the London Olympics giving rise to a remarkable career marked by stunning successes, fame and, inevitably, failure too.
The story of champion swimmer Chad Le Clos is thus perfect for SuperSport’s ongoing passion for storytelling, adding to a vibrant and varied documentary content slate that goes to the heart of many of our heroes.
“Born Racer” will premiere on June 30 (SS Variety 1, 8pm).
The documentary takes viewers inside the world of elite swimming, the ups and downs that come with it, as well as redemption. It’s about the challenges, triumphs and extraordinary sacrifices that come with dedicating one’s self to sport.
The big appeal of this film is its rawness. We often see Le Clos at his most vulnerable, and he freely gives expression to his self-doubt and disappointment. These aren’t behaviours normally on show with champion athletes, but Le Clos, to his credit, doesn’t shy away from his failures or his inability to cope.
Despite being able to lay claim to being the continent’s greatest swimmer of all time, his journey hasn’t been smooth. His rivalry with the great Michael Phelps, his famous defeat of the GOAT and his life in the fast lane are all examined under the director’s eye.
Inevitably, Le Clos’ family feature strongly throughout, both because they are all so influential, but also because they anchor him when things get loose, or he struggles. They are there, too, for early morning training sessions in pools across the country and they are there when the gun goes off at international meets.
Yet the twist comes as his career begins to wind down. His mental struggles are writ large. He’s a superstar of his sport, and yet he loses his mojo and can’t find answers. At times it can be harrowing to watch, partly because it’s unusual to see a big name so exposed, partly because you have to empathise.
“I wanted to tell an honest story about my passion for swimming and the obstacles I faced,” he said at the premiere. “I also wanted to shed light on the sacrifices and struggles that professional athletes like myself go through, and to also show what redemption looks like when you have a strong support structure like family. I want to inspire others to self-examine and consider what true happiness means.”
“Born Racer” is a pleasant departure from usual form. The scrutiny is intense, so too the emotion and energy. It’s a welcome glance into a champion’s secret world.