Kyle Chalmers prepped for four events at Tokyo

QUALIFIED: Kyle Chalmers booked his ticket to Tokyo to defend his men's 100m freestyle gold at the Australian Swimming Trials in Adelaide. Photo: Delly Carr, Swimming Australia
QUALIFIED: Kyle Chalmers booked his ticket to Tokyo to defend his men's 100m freestyle gold at the Australian Swimming Trials in Adelaide. Photo: Delly Carr, Swimming Australia

Reigning 100m freestyle Olympic champion Kyle Chalmers is ready for the challenge ahead of him in Tokyo, even more-so after recovering from shoulder issues last year.

Chalmers, who grew up in Port Lincoln, earned Australia's first gold medal in the men's 100m freestyle since 1968 Mexico City Olympics with his inspired come-from-behind swim at Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

Now his attention turns to Tokyo after earning a spot in the Australian Olympic team at the Australian Swimming Trials, held in Adelaide between June 12 and 17.

With the postponement of the 2020 Olympics due to the worldwide COVID-19, Chalmers had to wait another year to defend his Olympic crown but for him, the extra year was crucial.

He said he would not have been able to compete in 2020 due to a shoulder issue which required surgery later in the year, and described the extra year to get his body right a "blessing".

"Last year I did probably very minimal swimming because my shoulder was so bad, but now I've been able to get on top of it so I'm probably one of very few that's quite grateful for the extra year," he said.

"I guess being able to be known as the reigning champion for an extra year is pretty lucky as well."

Chalmers qualified for the 100m after recording a time of 47.59 at the trials on June 15.

He will also compete in the 4x100m and 4x200m freestyle relays, as well as the 4x100m medley relay.

Chalmers said it was a relief to qualify for the Olympic team and now focus on competing at Tokyo.

"It was awesome to get it over and done with," he said.

"I think it was probably more-so a relief more than anything to be qualified on the team now."

SWIM: Kyle Chalmers will compete in four events at the Tokyo Olympic Games. Photo: Delly Carr, Swimming Australia

SWIM: Kyle Chalmers will compete in four events at the Tokyo Olympic Games. Photo: Delly Carr, Swimming Australia

Chalmers has also been well supported by his family, as well as friends from Port Lincoln who during the trials.

This includes his grandparents Malcolm and Julie Bagnell, who made the trip over from Port Lincoln for the trials and are remembered for their famous viral video reacting to his gold medal swim in 2016.

"Without my family I wouldn't be where I am today, I love them and I love their support," he said.

Now qualified Chalmers is in Townsville for two weeks on a training camp before heading to Cairns for two weeks where he will join the rest of the Australian swimming team and then on to Tokyo where they will arrive about five days before competition.

He said while he would remain connected with his family as he moves on to competition, and was encouraged that while friends and family would not be able to come to Tokyo to see him swim live, they would be at home cheering him on.

"It will be unfortunate not being able to have family up in the crowds with me this year, but I know that no matter where I am in the world people are watching me on TV and I know we still get to share the moment, especially when I get home."

"It will definitely be encouraging knowing that everyone's checking in and watching me on TV, and hopefully I get the job done for them."

After about two weeks in Tokyo, which includes nine days of swimming competition, there is the option to either come home and spend two weeks in quarantine or remain to get ready for the International Swimming League at the end of the year.

However Chalmers' focus is on his Olympic events and as for pressure going into the event, he said he did not feel any to defend his Olympic title but would hit the water aiming to win.

"I'm a person that if I race I believe I can win and I think when I stop having that mental belief in myself then I will stop the sport of swimming," he said.

"At the moment I fully back myself in and am full of confidence so I'd like to think I can go quite well again in Tokyo."

Chalmers has kept his connection with Eyre Peninsula alive, making some trips over during the past 12 months,.

This includes a trip to Streaky Bay in 2020 to visit a cousin and a recent trip to Port Lincoln in April where he met with friends, visited some of his favourite places, did some fishing and unwound away from the pool.

"I still consider Port Lincoln as home so the more time I can get back there the better and I know in the years to come I'll probably get back there more than I have in the last little period," he said.

"I love Port Lincoln, I love my time there and I'm a very proud West Coast person."

Chalmers also wished his former football team Lincoln South the best of luck in their 75th year, saying he followed their results every week and hoped to one day return to have a kick in blue and gold.

This story Extra year a 'blessing' for Chalmers first appeared on Port Lincoln Times.