Kyle Chalmers has a couple more items left on his to-do list before he can comfortably call it a career. Next month, the 24-year-old sprint freestyle specialist will be the favorite to check off one of those goals — a Short Course World Championship — in front of a home crowd in Melbourne, Australia.
“The 100 freestyle is my baby and something I have achieved so much in over the years,” Chalmers told the Sydney Morning Herald.
“I have been the Australian champion, the Oceania champion, the junior world champion, the Commonwealth champion, the Olympic champion … but there are two more things I want to achieve, which is the world short-course championship and then the [long-course] world championship. I have two big boxes I want to tick so I can retire happily. So, I get the opportunity to tick one of those boxes off in front of a home crowd, and to have my family up in the crowd will mean the world to me.”
It’s been a turbulent year for Chalmers since he set the short-course world record (44.84) during last year’s FINA World Cup series. Last December, he underwent a second shoulder surgery that forced him to miss the 2021 Short Course World Championships. Then a media frenzy surrounding a perceived rift between Chalmers and Cody Simpson over former girlfriend Emma McKeon followed him from the Australian Swimming Championships in May to the Commonwealth Games in August. The sensationalized coverage took such a toll on Chalmers’ mental health that he even threatened to quit the sport altogether.
“It has been an interesting year, but it’s been a year of growth,” Chalmers said.
“For me, come Paris [Olympics] I will be completely bulletproof after going through something like this year. I feel like I have ticked every box of what challenges can come at me, and I know I will be able to deal with them better going forward.”
Chalmers enjoyed recent success at this year’s World Cup, winning the 100 free at all three stops. Despite the emergence of 18-year-old Romanian star David Popovici this summer, Chalmers remains the man to beat in short-course races — for now. Chalmers’ 45.52 from Toronto is more than a second faster than the 46.62 Popovici clocked at the Romanian Short Course Championships earlier this month.
Whereas Chalmers used to dominate because of shear strength, he now believes he holds an advantage because of his combination of power and skill in short-course racing, which places a bigger emphasis on turns and underwaters. Over the past few years, long periods away from the pool due to injury have allowed Chalmers to focus on those facets of the sport.
“For me, I would always win races by being the fittest or the strongest or the fastest kind of person in the race,” he said. “But now I am able to win races because my skills are a whole lot better than what they used to be, and they’re right up there with the best in the world.
“It is something I pride myself on now, my dive and my turns and my underwater fly kicks. It has improved a huge amount in the last two-year period. ”
With Chalmers’ body finally feeling better, he has sights set on lowering his 100 free world record to cap off a crazy season.
“I would love to think every time I dive into the pool I can swim the best I possibly can and swim personal best times,” he said. “For me, swimming a PB now is a world record.”