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Chad le Clos' parents are both battling cancer and will watch their son swim in Rio

It won't be easy to root against Chad le Clos in his showdown with Michael Phelps on Tuesday night.

Clive Rose/Getty Images

Chad Le Clos won't have many Americans on his side when he races against Michael Phelps in the men's 200-meter butterfly final Tuesday night in Rio, but rooting against him won't be easy. The South African swimmer enters the highly anticipated race knowing that his parents, who are both fighting cancer, will be watching from the stands.

Competing in an Olympic final is already a stressful endeavor. For Le Clos, who beat Phelps for the gold medal in this event at the 2012 Olympics in London, there's an added layer. Before leaving for Rio, he learned that his father, Bert, had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. His mother, Geraldine, has breast cancer that's returned after going into remission six years ago.

Now all three of them are in Rio, with the loving parents getting the chance to see their son compete for another gold medal. Four years ago in London, Bert could be seen on TV screaming and cheering for his son as he shocked the world by beating Phelps.

Things are much different now, but once again, they'll be watching Chad take on the most decorated Olympian in history.

"It is wonderful to be here but it is hard," Bert said in an interview with USA Today. "We wouldn’t miss it, we couldn’t miss it and I can’t wait to see him compete with Phelps again. He looks great and he is showing great form.

"It is difficult because to be honest with you I don’t have that many memories of four years ago because it has been such a journey for us all since then. We are just excited about what is happening now."

While most athletes are simply competing for gold and glory, Le Clos has another source of motivation. There's been a lot made of his rivalry with Phelps, and that vicious stare the American had on his face before the semifinals Monday, but for Le Clos, he won't be thinking about Phelps in the end. He'll be thinking of Mom and Dad.

"It has been very difficult to say the least, the last few months, but when you are swimming for something greater than yourself it can help you achieve great things," Chad Le Clos said. "I swim for not only my country, my coach and my teammates but I swim for my family as well. That last 50 meters I think about them."