Keep Chalm and carry on

22 December 2016

SWIMMING: It is virtually impossible to think back to the Rio 2016 Games without remembering the man that is Kyle Chalmers.

The 18-year-old swimmer ‘flew under the radar’ in the lead up to the Games, but when he stepped up on the blocks for the men’s 100m freestyle final on the fifth night of the Rio Olympics he was under a minute away from becoming a superstar.

The South Australian touched seventh in the field of eight at the halfway mark of the 100m final, before unleashing a whirlwind finish to become Australia’s youngest Olympic swimming champion since Ian Thorpe in 2000.

With a gold medal already to his name, the Youth Olympian added two bronze medals to his collection at Rio, helping Australia finish on the podium in both the men’s 4 x 100m freestyle relay and men’s 4 x 100m medley relay.

He came home from his debut Games in South America as a triple Olympic medallist.

However, the excitement didn’t end there for Chalmers. Last week he was crowned AIS Male Athlete of the Year and his win in Rio also secured him the AIS Sporting Moment of the Year. At the Swimming Australia’s Gala Dinner in November he was awarded the Olympic Program Swimmer of the Year and Golden Moment of the Year.

The world junior record holder also wears the crown of South Australian Sports Star of the Year and Junior Sports Star of the Year.

In the span of a couple of months the boy who grew up in the small town of Port Lincoln turned into an Australian icon.

“The first couple of weeks back from Rio were hectic,” said Chalmers reflecting on the year.

“There are still quite a few people who stop me in the street for photos and to congratulate me.

“It’s really cool. I’ve grown up my whole life being a huge sport fan and I remember stopping AFL players on the street for photos, and now that it’s me getting stopped in the street - it’s pretty surreal.

However, Chalmers’s says his new found fame will not change the person he is.

“I’m definitely still the same person that I was leading into Rio and that’s how I want to stay, I want to stay the person that I am.

“I like to think of myself as a country boy and we’re pretty relaxed and humble, and that’s how I want to stay for my entire career.

“I don’t think it’s changed me in that aspect but I think it’s changed me now that people actually know who I am.”

After an exciting and chaotic year, Chalmers is looking forward to some down time with his extended family in South Australia for Christmas.

“Sitting around and spending time with my cousins is my favourite thing about Christmas.

“I’m really looking forward to catching up with family that I haven’t seen for such a long time.”

He will take a two week break from the pool during the festive season, but will continue to cross-train to maintain fitness, before he’s back in the pool in January.

Chalmers was disappointed at missing out on his first short course national title when he had to pull out of the 100m freestyle final at the Australian Short Course Championships in Brisbane in November, due to an ongoing heart condition.

The swimmer was diagnosed with Supraventricular Tachycardia before the Olympics, and although not a major heart condition, it is something that the team doctors and coaches keep an eye on. However, the condition is not going to hold Chalmers back from trying to add a few more world titles to his name.

Looking ahead to 2017, Chalmers can’t wait to get back into international competition.

“I’m definitely looking forward to being back in my peak fitness and racing at the international level again. That’s always something I love doing.

“When you train around 10 times a week in the water for four months straight, the most rewarding thing is racing at international competition with the best in the world.

“The biggest lesson I’ve learnt this year is how the mind is so strong. If you put your mind to what you want to achieve, it’s definitely doable and age doesn’t matter.”

Georgia Thompson

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