Chad le Clos: Olympic champion reveals both parents have cancer

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Archive: Le Clos' father overcome with pride

Olympic, world and Commonwealth swimming champion Chad le Clos has revealed both his parents have cancer.

The 24-year-old South African, who is set to defend his Olympic title in Rio, said: "These have definitely been the most difficult few months of my life."

Le Clos said his mother, Geraldine, had undergone a double mastectomy in recent weeks after her breast cancer returned.

He added his father, Bert, has prostate cancer and has lost 30kg in weight in the past six months.

"Having my mum and dad healthy would mean so much more than winning a gold medal," said Le Clos.

Bert le Clos became well known to BBC viewers at the 2012 London Olympics for an exuberant interview he gave to Clare Balding after his son's impressive victory over defending champion and world record holder Michael Phelps.

"There are no words to describe what he has done for my career," said Le Clos.

"He has always been there, from my very first swimming competition when I was a seven-year-old at Penzance Primary School.

"The world saw what he is like when I won at London 2012. It really was not an act when he was doing the BBC interview that made him famous. His support for me is the same today, despite what he is going through.

"He has lost 30 kilos in about six months which, when you know how much my dad loves to eat, is a pretty frightening thing. But it goes well beyond the physical. It has been a difficult emotional rollercoaster for him."

Geraldine and Bert Le Clos
Geraldine and Bert Le Clos pictured at the 2014 Commonwealth Games

Le Clos followed his 200m butterfly gold at London 2012 with victory at the 2013 World Swimming Championships in Barcelona, then claimed a record-equalling seven medals at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

For the last year and a half, the family have been filming a documentary about his preparations for Rio.

"We did not know any of this was going to happen when we started," said Le Clos. "The crew have seen every part of my family life, including seeing my father at his absolute best, but also how he is being hit by this disease.

"Finding out about my mum has been much, much worse for us all because she has been through it before.

"She was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010 when I was preparing for the Commonwealth Games.

"My parents both knew how important it was for me to qualify for that and so they actually kept mum's illness from me until after the trials. I was angry with them at the time, but now I understand why they did it."

Le Clos says he is training hard for the Rio Olympics, which begin on 5 August.

"Thinking about what has happened to both my parents has helped a lot with my motivation," he said.

"I have had moments where I have been wondering whether mum and dad will be in Rio. But, as things stand, they will be.

"There are many pressures on me, but I know when I step on the starting block in an Olympic final that I can handle anything that gets thrown at me."

Le Clos was speaking before the release of 'Unbelievable: The Chad le Clos Story', which will be available on his website on Sunday, 24 July.

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