2018 OCEANIA MALE SWIMMER OF THE YEAR: KYLE CHALMERS, AUSTRALIA
At the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, then-18-year-old Kyle Chalmers became an Australian hero with his come-from-behind victory in the men’s 100 freestyle, where he upset reigning Olympic champion Nathan Adrian, as well as textile world record holder and fellow countryman Cameron McEvoy to win gold. In August of 2016, Chalmers looked unstoppable. However, due to heart surgery, Chalmers would withdraw from the 2017 FINA World Championships in Budapest where another young sprint superstar, Caeleb Dressel, would steal the show and win gold in Chalmers’ signature 100 free.
Though Chalmers was back to racing by July of 2017, just one month after heart surgery, his true return to form came in 2018 with explosive swims both at home and abroad.
At the 2018 Australian Swimming Trials, held February 28th-March 3rd in Queensland, Chalmers won the 100 free in an impressive 48.16, as well as the 200 free in 1:46.49. Just over one month later at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Chalmers blasted an impressive 1:45.56 to win the 200 free, edging teammate Mack Horton. Though Chalmers was defeated by Duncan Scott in the 100, instead tying for silver with South African Chad le Clos in 48.15, he helped Australia win three gold medals with victories in the 400 freestyle relay, 800 freestyle relay, and 400 medley relay. Notably, Chalmers posted an extremely fast 47.25 freestyle split in Australia’s medley relay, which also set a Games Record in 3:31.04.
In August at the 2018 Pan Pacific Championships in Tokyo, Chalmers and American superstar Caeleb Dressel finally squared off in the 100 free. Though neither man swam particularly close to his best time in the event, Chalmers got the better of Dressel, touching 48.00 to Dressel’s 48.22, which tied Australia’s Jack Cartwright for silver. Chalmers also helped Australia win silver in the 400 and 800 freestyle relays, as well as bronze in the 400 medley relay, where he split a 46.91 on the freestyle, making his swim the fastest in the field by nearly a second.
Chalmers finished off 2018 with some short course racing on the FINA World Cup circuit. In Singapore, Chalmers became the third-fastest Australian ever in the 200 freestyle with a time of 1:41.50. He also 45.54 in the 100 freestyle to become the 2nd-fastest Australian ever in the event. Despite showing extreme skill and competitiveness in the small pool, Chalmers chose not to attend the 2018 FINA World Championships in Hangzhou, China. Regardless, his multitude of successes in 2018, especially considering his health issues in 2017, make Chalmers our pick for Male Oceania Swimmer of the Year.
In no particular order:
- Mitch Larkin, Australia: At the 2018 Commonwealth Games, Larkin won the 100 backstroke in a brisk 53.18. Two days later, Larkin added another victory in the 50 back, where he clocked a 24.68. Then, in the 200 back, Larkin completed the trifecta, touching in 1:56.10. On the final night of racing, Larkin posted a 1:57.67 in the 200 IM, winning gold and setting a new Games Record. Later, he helped the Australian men win gold in the 400 medley relay, where he produced a 53.14 lead-off split, making him the only swimmers sub-54 in the backstroke in the relay finals. In August, at the 2018 Pan Pacific Championships, Larkin took home a bronze medal in the 100 backstroke where be cracked the 53-second barrier once again, touching in 52.88. Though he would only finish 4th in the 200 back, Larkin also took a surprising silver in the 200 IM, finishing behind American Chase Kalisz in a quick 1:56.21, a time that would have been fast enough for silver at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
- Mack Horton, Australia: 2016 Olympic gold medalist Mack Horton reasserted his dominance over the men’s 400 freestyle at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, where he posted a 3:43.76 to win by 1.5 seconds over teammate and rising star Jack McLoughlin. Horton also took silver in the 200 free (1:45.89), and bronze in the 1500 free (14:51.05). Additionally, Horton split a 1:46.93 to help Australia win gold and set a new Games Record in the 800 freestyle relay. At Pan Pacs in Tokyo, Horton picked up silver in the 400 free behind teammate McLoughlin, touching 3:44.31 to McLoughlin’s 3:44.20.