PSG News & Views
The inside story of why we made 'Unbelievable' : The Chad Le Clos Story
As Professional Sport Group’s first documentary approaches 20,000 YouTube views, Jamie Cunningham, CEO and founder of Professional Sports Group tells the tale of an incredible project:
"I first met Chad and Bert Le Clos in a Dubai coffee shop in November 2012. The summary of my 60-minute conversation with Bert was that he told me that all agents were full of the same old ****. I agreed with him but said that he needed the right person to guide his son’s commercial career, who he could trust, stand up to him and deliver the ****! I then asked if he knew who or what was the biggest risk to his son’s career? I really needed a mirror for dramatic effect.
Bert ignored me for a few months and then we met again in March 2013 in South Africa when Chad agreed to become a client. Bert and I are now great friends. I respect him as one of the most savvy sporting Dads I have ever met. He is also one of the most colourful, fun and passionate people I know. He just wants the best for his son – and understandably so.
Visiting South Africa and Durban over the past few years has been eye-opening for many, many reasons. South Africa has everything. Unfortunately the pathway to success in Olympic sports is not easy. It is what makes South African sportsmen so driven to succeed to be fair.
The Le Clos family focus on what they can control. Chad is successful because of his attitude, his drive, a great coach, a unique Dad, a superstar Mum plus a great support group of family and friends. In 2012, no one really understood how incredible Chad’s journey to beat Michael Phelps in Michael’s favourite event, the 200m Fly, at the London Olympics had been. Chad should have done every US chat show possible with his Dad in September after London. But no one in his team had any experience of global marketing.
So our challenge was that Chad is a star of his sport – but he was not a "household name" outside of South Africa. Having been fortunate enough to work with some of the best TV directors/producers over the past 25 years at the BBC, TWI, Twofour and most recently with Jane Treays on Tom Daley, I fully understand the power of a good documentary pre-Olympics. So we decided to fund the production ourselves in January 2015. We started filming with 500 days to go to Rio. We finished on July 2nd.
I asked Matthew Pinsent to direct it, since I knew that he would bring his usual excellence, even though it was a new challenge for him. We have worked with Matthew since 2003 as his business partner and agent. As an athlete, Matt was part of the BBC’s most successful ever documentary, Gold Fever, back in 2000 – so knew the principles of the journey for Chad and his family. Matt also fronted the BBC’s award winning Olympic Dreams 2012 series and is widely regarded as a really good journalist and broadcaster.
The documentary started life as a focus on Chad and the dynamic that drives an Olympic champion – plus all the challenges of defending an Olympic title as a swimmer whose training base is an outdoor public pool in Durban South Africa. En route, Michael Phelps came out of retirement and Bert was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Then his Mum Gerry was diagnosed with cancer on what was meant to be our last week of filming….but the family insisted that we keep filming, even when Gerry went in for a double mastectomy. In the pool, Chad messed up his defence of his 200m Fly World Championship crown in Kazan last August but bounced back to win the 100m in style a few days later. Chad then got involved in some media banter with Mr Phelps – the perfect media prelude to the Rio head-to-head even if it was more beneficial for Michael than Chad at the time.
In short, 'Unbelievable' is the only term that you can use with the Le Clos story and family – and thus the documentary. We have had some great reviews for our first edition and this is testament to Matt’s great work and the support of all the contributors in the film. It was shown on Supersport in Africa and Eurosport across Europe – and we decided to launch a new YouTube channel 'OnetoWatch #12W'.
We are continuing to film during Rio with a view to a second edition at the end of this year. I don’t see the title changing. Chad’s parents have both made it to Rio to watch him. The narrative from here is pure sport."
Watch: UNBELIEVABLE: The Chad le Clos Story via www.youtube.com/c/12WOneToWatch