Kyle Chalmers before winning the 100m at the Australian Swimming Championships. Picture: AAP Image/Kelly Barnes
Kyle Chalmers before winning the 100m at the Australian Swimming Championships. Picture: AAP Image/Kelly Barnes

Behind king Kyle’s eye of the tiger

IT took Kyle Chalmers three years to find 0.1 of a second.

That's three years of grinding away twice day every day in the pool, in the gym, eating right, sleeping well, stretching properly, not drinking, all to find roughly the time it takes to blink.

On Monday night at the SA Aquatic and Leisure Centre, he swam a 100m freestyle PB of 47.48secs which was the fastest time by anyone in the world in more than 18 months.

 

But it was more significant than just a PB. It was the first time since Rio in August, 2016, that he'd gone faster than the swim that won him Olympic gold.

It was significant because Chalmers could have gone either way after such unexpected success at such a young age in Rio.

The gold medal could have been the best and the worst thing that ever happened to him.

The motivation to go on or the pressure to back it up after such a life-changing moment could have put him at the crossroads of a sport that spits young swimmers out as quickly as it turns them into stars.

Where is your head at when you become Olympic champion, have conquered the mountain and admired the view before you've even finished school?

Kyle Chalmers after winning gold in the 100m freestyle at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Picture: Alex Coppel.
Kyle Chalmers after winning gold in the 100m freestyle at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Picture: Alex Coppel.

If you're Chalmers, you get back to work and try to do it again.

Five minutes after getting out of the pool on Monday night his chest was still heaving with deep breaths as he explained to reporters what had just happened.

There was a look of elation and relief on Chalmers' face, as if he'd just broken through an imaginary barrier that only he could fully appreciate.

And then came the kicker, "there are definitely areas to improve on".

"I know my turn this morning (in qualifying) was 0.04 of a second slower than what Cam (McEvoy) went when he went 47.0," Chalmers said.

Sorry, what? Who knows that? And who knows that so soon after their swim?

Chalmers, of course.

Kyle Chalmers says he still believes there is room for serious improvement.
Kyle Chalmers says he still believes there is room for serious improvement.

"I know that my skills are coming, it's just about practising every time we do a turn in training," he said.

"We do hundreds of them a day and you can practice bad skills pretty easily so it's your muscle memory coming into a race you don't want to be thinking about it too much you just want it to happen naturally."

Behind the smile on the happy-go-lucky 20-year-old's face is a ruthless perfectionist and competitor who will stop at nothing to get better and to win.

After Rio there was talk about him going and playing football, or moving interstate and joining a more high-profile swimming squad on the east coast which is the sport's epicentre in Australia.

But Chalmers resisted both. He has stayed the course - in the pool, in Adelaide and with the Marion Swimming Club.

Kyle Chalmers on his way to breaking his personal best for the 100m freestyle.
Kyle Chalmers on his way to breaking his personal best for the 100m freestyle.

And you almost forget that he's had two rounds of heart surgery since Rio and come back bigger and better from both.

Chalmers is clearly a very driven and grounded young man and surrounded by good people. A great family, a supportive partner and a master coach Peter Bishop who has been with him from day dot.

Regardless of what happens in Tokyo next year Chalmers has proven he's no one-hit wonder and his commitment and passion for the sport is equal to his God given talent.

Chalmers is back in action in the men's 200m freestyle at the national championships on Wednesday night.