Exclusive Interview With Kyle Chalmers: Dissecting An Olympic Champion

The world has watched Australia’s Kyle Chalmers transition from impactful domestic age group star to national-level threat to Olympic champion in the span of just a few short years. The now-19-year-old enjoyed recent success on his home turf, claiming 4 golds and 1 silver at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, including the men’s 200m free Commonwealth title.

Speaking with the South Australian native recently, SwimSwam was able to dissect Chalmers’ composition to find out what makes him such a magnetic athlete both in and out of the pool. Read on to learn more about 2016 Olympic champion Chalmers.

First off, congratulations on a terrific performance at the recent Commonwealth Games. What was your reaction to winning the men’s 200m freestyle event? Were you pleased with your time? Where does this particular event fall in terms of priority for your training?

I’m very excited to have come away with an individual gold medal in the men’s 200m freestyle. I wasn’t expecting to win this event, as historically I’ve been a 100m freestyler, so it was quite a surprise to win Gold. I was so happy with the time as it was almost a second faster than my previous personal best time, which I achieved at trials four weeks earlier. I’ll be training for this event a lot more in the coming years so that in 2020 I can hopefully compete in the 200m freestyle and the 4x200m freestyle relay alongside the 100m, of course!

Very close race in the men’s 100m free at the Games; how disappointed were you to not have won gold in front of home crowd in the event in which you won Olympic gold? Or, did the 200m make up for the 100m silver?

I was not at all disappointed to win silver. The 100m Freestyle is always such a competitive race and there was a strong field at the Commonwealth Games. I had been ill in the few days running up to the race and for me to stand up and perform better than I had done at trials, there are definitely some positives I can take away from that race heading into World Champs in 2019.

Tell me about the relationship among Aussie men’s relay mates. You have a wide age range mix, with 27-year-old Maggie, young guns like you & Cartwright, etc. Do you each play a role? If so, what is your particular role among the squad?

We all have a great relationship, and this contributes to the success of the team. Cameron McEvoy is one of my best mates on the swim team and to swim alongside him in relays is always very special for me. Then you have James Roberts and James Magnussen who are both 27 years old and have been on Aussie swim teams for a while that provide the team with a lot of experience. Jack is another gun who is coming through and has a huge future. We’ve been through our junior swimming teams together so to be swimming on the senior team together now is very special. All in all, we get along very well and there is a great team dynamic. We all offer different strengths and if we can stay together as a team heading into Tokyo, I believe that we can achieve something very special.

You’ve openly thanked Madi Wilson for her ‘special support’ of you through the Games. As a couple, how difficult was it for you to see her, an Olympian, on the sidelines cheering when she normally would be in the pool competing alongside you as a teammate?

Madi has been an amazing support to me over the past couple of years and especially this year at the Commonwealth Games. It was such a shame she wasn’t able to compete; however it’s motivated her moving forward and I know she’ll be back better than ever in the coming years. Having her as a training partner and watching how she approaches the sport is very inspiring. Madi is one of the most professional athletes I know.  

Your first race back after heart surgery was at a local SA district meet, I believe. What were your nerves like getting back at it after the medical recovery? Was your mind more ready than your body or vice versa? What is it like knowing that the SVT is behind you?

My nerves were ok. My body was ready to race but my mind wasn’t quite ready, as I think I was still anxious about the surgery and trying to be protective of my body. I’m glad it’s behind me now and I can focus on future races.

You’ve been titled, “Lizard King” due to your stable of unique pets. But, they’re symbolic of how you keep things balanced in your life, no? Can you speak to how you appear to be very grounded when the world of swimming expects so much of you? If you had to slice your life into pie pieces, how big a piece is swimming actually?

Keeping my life balanced is something that’s very important to me. After the Rio Olympics, my whole life was focused on swimming and I pushed the important things like study, my hobbies and passions and my social life aside. Only when I had surgery did I realise how quickly my sporting career could come to an end and this really put things into perspective for me. For me, it’s important to have things to fall back on and other passions outside of swimming, so this year I’ve decided to start university and begin studying. And the lizards, well they help me take my mind off things. I spend 40 hours a week at the pool and coming home to clean, feed and care for the lizards is something that helps me destress and unwind.

Before the Commonwealth Games, you said you didn’t know who your rivals would be outside of your home nation. Is that really the case? You had no idea that Duncan Scott, Chad Le Clos and others would be hunting you down? What advantage do you see in not following your foreign rivals heading into a competition? Do you consider yourself as your only competition then?

I honestly didn’t know who was racing in my events until walking into the marshalling room. I knew there would be some amazing athletes competing at the Commonwealth Games, but I didn’t know what events they would choose to swim. I’ve never been one to be overly involved in swimming in terms of following the sport and knowing people’s best times or areas of strength. This gives me a huge advantage because I’m able to just relax and swim my own race and not worry about the people next to me.

What events will you be targeting for Pan Pacs? Tokyo? Is the 50m a thing of the past for you? You’ve dabbled in 200 IM and fly events in the past; would those ever make it into your regular meet repertoire?

Looking ahead, I’ll be focusing my attention on the 100m and 200m freestyle events. I don’t have the speed to swim the 50m at this stage of my career and I enjoy hard aerobic training so this means that my 200m should only benefit from the training I do. Doing these two events also gives me the best chance to swim all three relays at international competitions, which is something I love being a part of.

Adidas signed you on when you were still an emerging athlete, but that says a lot about their confidence in you. Did adidas signing you give you the feeling back then that ‘you’ve made it’? How does your relationship with the company/products help you perform?

Once I heard adidas wanted to sign me at 16 years old, I realised I must have had a special talent for swimming. adidas is such a huge brand and the technology in their swimwear is so advanced, its every athlete’s dream to be sponsored by them. Having the support of adidas really boosted my confidence and gave me the motivation to keep training and take my swimming to the next level. 

I was fortunate enough to have quite a lot of input into the new adizero XVIII suit so when I first raced in it, it fit perfectly and was so comfortable, exactly how I wanted it to be. The X-TRA Fit technology made the suit tight and supportive, but I had full range of motion, while the X-TRA Flow lightweight fabric meant the water just rolled off me. The suits compressive fit and the innovative bands in the X-TRA Energy technology boosted my energy and helped with my performance and my recovery. It was amazing to be involved in the product development process and then race in the final product. I am so proud to represent the adidas brand and be given the opportunity to wear their products.

Some athletes are very vocal about their goals…Peaty with ‘Project 56’ for example, Le Clos wanting a certain # of medals. What is your goal-setting protocol like? Are goals something you visit every day? Do you have specific race times in mind that are your mantra during training? Or, do you just have a basic, general incentive to simply ‘get faster’ or ‘win’?

I have specific goals to ensure my times keep improving. I have goal times for every aspect of my race – dive, turn, finish, first 50 meters, second 50 meters, everything you could imagine, and I know that if I get all these things little things correct, then my time at the end of the race will be what I want it to be. For me it’s about focusing on the process and then I know I’ll achieve the outcome I want.

Finally, are you still, the back of your mind, wanting to follow in your dad’s ‘footy’ steps? Is that sport something you see yourself getting into at some point post-swimming, whenever that is?

Football is something that has always been my number one passion, it’s something that’s in my blood. Eventually, one day I will play football again at some level, but I think that will be country or social football. Once my swimming career is done, I think I’ll just want to play weekend footy with my mates and not have to worry about the stress that comes with playing sport professionally!

Adidas contributed to this report. Adidas is a SwimSwam partner.

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Displaced Wolverine

His hair looks like it’s graying in that picture. Life can’t be that rough… right?

sven

Gotta be the chlorine. Dudeman needs a haircare company to sponsor him and give him some shampoo.

Anyway, the kid definitely seems extremely mature for his age. The bit about his process-oriented approach to goal setting is great, and I think it’s that approach that will help ensure a long and successful career for him.

Displaced Wolverine

Yeah his face legitimately makes him look late 30’s

Dudeman

I don’t need a haircare company to sponsor me but chalmers might lol

ERVINFORTHEWIN

Most hair care Compagnies dont necessarily sell ” healthy ” products …..just saying

ERVINFORTHEWIN

I think its the reflection of the sun on his wet hair that ” looks ” like they are grey color . thats all there is to it

tammy touchpad error

I respect him so much for ignoring the competition. “Only know who was in my race when showing up to the marshaling room”. Wish I could be more like that.

Togger

Different things work for different swimmers.

Phelps used to stick photos of rivals (Thorpe, Cavic etc.) in locker and do you think Lily King doesn’t think about her rivals every training stroke she takes?

Others, seem much more process and time focused, like Chalmers. I get the impression Dressel is similar, with us hyping Dressel vs Chalmers in 2019, but both of them just focusing on going a time they think is needed to win.

Ol' Longhorn

Hard to believe Maggie is only 27. Seems like he’s been hanging on (barely) forever.

Tammy Touchpad Error

Seemed like he was over 30 in 2012 when he was going 47.1 and sleepwalking in hotels.

About Loretta Race

Loretta Race

After 16 years at a Fortune 1000 financial company, long-time swimmer Retta Race decided to change lanes and pursue her sporting passion. She currently is Coach for the Northern KY Swordfish Masters, a team she started up in December 2013, while also offering private coaching. Retta is also an MBA …

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