Pop star swimmer takes bold Tokyo bid to next level
Pop star Cody Simpson is ramping up his audacious bid to make the Tokyo Olympics by signing up for next weekend's Sydney Open - the last big warm-up meet before the Australian national swimming trials.
The odds are still heavily stacked against Simpson making the star-studded Aussie team for Tokyo after he quit the sport a decade ago to focus on music, but the ex-boyfriend of Miley Cyrus sure isn't going to die wondering.
The multi-talented 24-year-old has entered himself in three events at the Sydney Aquatic Centre - 100 metres freestyle, 50m butterfly and 100m butterfly - where his rivals will include Olympic champion Kyle Chalmers.
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Just nine months into his comeback, Simpson has already silenced the sceptics when he made the final of the men's 50 metres butterfly at last month's Australian championships on the Gold Coast less than a week after clearing quarantine following his move back home from the United States.
But as the 50m butterfly is not on the Olympic program, the Sydney Open will provide a better gauge of Simpson's chances of making the team in the 100m butterfly, his favourite event, at next month's trials in Adelaide.
To be selected for Tokyo, Simpson needs to finish in the top two at the Australian trials and better 51.70 secs, but regardless of whether he makes the team or not, Swimming Australia should be thanking their lucky stars he's returned to the sport.
The Queenslander says he's committed to the long haul and planning to train through to Paris 2024, and with more than 10 million followers on social media, he's already generated a lifetime of attention on a sport that rarely gets noticed out of the Olympics.
Simpson will be joined in Sydney by most of Australia's big name swimmers, including Olympic gold medallists Chalmers, Cate Campbell, Bronte Campbell, Emma McKeon and Emily Seebohm as well as rising stars Ariarne Titmus, Kaylee McKeown, Elijah Winnington and Matt Wilson.
Only a handful of Tokyo contenders have decided to skip the Homebush Bay meet to focus all their attention on the trials, including Mack Horton, whose poor form at the Australian championships has got some worried that he might be in danger of missing the team.
Horton pulled out of his pet event, the 400m freestyle, at the Gold Coast last month after he finished 68th in the 100m, 35th in the 200m and seventh in the 800m.
Horton has always been notoriously slow when he's in heavy training - as he is now - so his performances so far are not out of character and remains confident he will be ready in time for the trials.
Horton has proven before that he can peak when it matters but is also facing fresh challenges from a new wave of young middle distance swimmers including Winnington, Jack McLoughlin and Thomas Neill, so his withdrawal from Sydney will only add to the questions about whether he can do it again.
Originally published as Pop star swimmer takes bold Tokyo bid to next level