Games poster boy now hunting the Big Tuna
KYLE Chalmers' hot favouritism for Sunday night's all-star 100m freestyle final copped a surprise curveball on Saturday with back tightness and Gold Coast Games poster boy Cam McEvoy reviving his hopes after the flattest of heat swims.
Teammate James Magnussen forecast Chalmers' unflappable nature in the pool would be one of his greatest assets in the final whatever mind games come into play.
It seemed that Chalmers was the one throwing out the mind games on Saturday night when he explained his subdued semi-final swim as a combination of fatigue, coming off the relay gold medal high of Friday night and a little tightness in his back.
He was only third fastest qualifier into the final (48.70) with a modest semi-final swim that was more functional than laying down the stamp of an Olympic champion.
McEvoy had looked average in his morning heat, came into the semi-finals as eighth-fastest qualifier and then snapped out a 48.50 effort to lead the qualifiers out of the semis.
Chalmers does seem far more capable of a one second improvement in the final but it does add to the intrigue of the sprint showdown with Jack Cartwright (48.73) and South Africa's classy all-rounder Chad le Clos (48.61) also in the mix for medals.
"There was definitely a bit of fatigue ... it was hard coming off such a high (4 x 100m relay gold)," Chalmers said.
"I knew I had to get through the round just so I could get more sleep before this final."
He chipped away at his rest on Saturday by watching the first quarter of his beloved Port Adelaide play the Brisbane Lions before resting and waking to enjoy a five-point win.
"I had an epidural (for a bad back) in February. I've been able to deal with it pretty well but I think after racing (on Friday) it just tightened up a bit," Chalmers said.
Expect Chalmers to be at full throttle in the final while McEvoy's stocks got a timely jolt of confidence with his semi win.
"The more I swim the better it's getting. You can be a totally different swimmer within the day," McEvoy said of his improvement from heat to semi.
"I'm pretty excited this boy (Cartwright) is going to be there (in the final) and King Kyle."
Magnussen - who claimed gold in the event at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games - said Saturday's heats produced "sleepy" times but he is tipping Chalmers to top the podium.
"The big thing for him will be if someone can drag him out quickly in that first 50 in the final, he should be in for a pretty quick overall time," Magnussen said.
"If the whole race kind of plays cat and mouse and goes out slow, I think he'll still win but he probably won't swim as fast.."
South African Le Clos could be the man to take Chalmers to both a gold medal and a blistering time, Magnussen said, given his aggressive racing style.
Magnussen, 26, claimed gold in Friday night's 4x100m freestyle relay and will compete in his only individual event - the 50m freestyle - on Monday.
After that, he said, remains a mystery as he prepares to weigh up his future in the pool.
"Honestly, I've just put no limitations on myself - I'm just going to go out there and enjoy it, really hook in and the good thing about a 50 is there's no race plan," he said.
"There's no playing mind games - it's just get in and rip and tear. It's nice and simple for me - I'm just going to play to my strengths and do what I can."