Kyle Chalmers, who is reportedly involved in a “love triangle” with two teammates, produced the perfect counterpart to criticism in his native Australia by pipping England’s Tom Dean to win gold in the 100m freestyle.
The 24-year-old, who just missed out on the Olympic title last year, put his fingers over his lips as his immediate celebration in the pool in a rousing action in response to the media frenzy that erupted on Saturday night when he was questioned. whether there was division in the Australian camp.
Although long-running soap Neighbors may have ended last week, the drama surrounding Chalmers’ ex-girlfriend – Australia’s sweetheart in the pool Emma McKeon – now dating swimmer Cody Simpson has provided plenty of entertainment for the Australian public. Simpson is no stranger to the limelight, having been a teen pop idol who dated Miley Cyrus and was even once seen as a potential successor to Justin Bieber in the teen bopper heartthrob.
The suggestions of a rift emerged after Chalmers put his name down to swim the butterfly – Simpson’s event – at the world championships in Budapest last month. Members of the Australian press corps then claimed that Chalmers had not congratulated McKeon on Friday night after the duo were part of the Australian side that won gold in the mixed relay. Chalmers went toe-to-toe with an Australian journalist on Saturday night when the allegations were made against him.
He has always maintained that any disagreements with McKeon and Simpson were “lies” made up by the media, and before last night’s race he had been candid about the impact of being cast as the villain on his mental health. There seemed no sign of animosity among the Australians as the whole team backed Chalmers, almost out cheering the partisan support of Dean and Scotland’s Duncan Scott, who took bronze. Chalmers was eager to explain the significance of the victory celebration.
“It’s something I had thought about. Normally, I would have imagined a more vigorous celebration after a win, but this one was special. It probably means more than punching or flexing muscles. I hope it sends a powerful message,” he said. During an animated victory lap that went around the edge of the pool with Dean and Scott, Chalmers notably stopped smiling and waving as he walked past the press benches and sped up before resuming his chat with the Englishman and the Scot.
The South Australian, who shot to fame as an 18-year-old at the Rio Olympics, winning over the same distance, went on to explain how the victory did not have the same feel he had hoped for when he set out for the Games. “It’s a bittersweet feeling. Instead of enjoying the moment, it’s a feeling of relief. I hope I was able to inspire a lot of people at home who are going through similar things. I just hope that no one has to go through what I have had to the last 48 hours.
– What matters is getting the gold medal. It took all my courage to rage and it was about getting my hand on the wall first. [The support from the Australian public] had been overwhelming and I love it. The last 48 hours have been hell, an emotional rollercoaster. When I spoke to my coach beforehand, I almost started crying – and I’m not an emotional person.”
It was also a special night for McKeon who secured gold in the women’s 50m butterfly, making the 28-year-old the most decorated swimmer in Commonwealth Games history. This only added to the sense of unity for the under-fire Australian team.