Australian Olympic swimming icon Kyle Chalmers has poured his heart out about an interview with retired swim star Giaan Rooney, that the 24-year-old said "knocked" him around massively. Chalmers has frequently found himself having to answer questions about his ex-girlfriend Emma McKeon and her boyfriend, pop star Cody Simpson.
Chalmers has admitted in the past that being bombarded with questions about the supposed 'love triangle' has been taxing on his mental health. The Olympic champion has also found himself having to deny countless rumours about rifts between him, McKeon and Simpson, with the saga playing out very publicly across social media and in the mainstream media.
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The 24-year-old admits he's come close to giving away the sport he loves because the media scrutiny has become too intense. Speaking on his The Big Deal podcast, Chalmers identified an interview with retired Aussie swimming legend Rooney - now a commentator with Channel Nine - in which he felt "cut down" by the former champion.
Chalmers says the interview in question came after he won the 50m butterfly at the Australian National Championships in May last year. The 24-year-old claims that instead of focusing on his own incredible achievement, Rooney asked the swimmer for his thoughts on Simpson’s “disappointment” at missing out on qualifying for the world championships.
“I got out of the pool, it was my first comp back from shoulder surgery… I’d just won a national title in my fifth different individual event. I’d swum a personal best time after shoulder surgery, 50 butterfly. I was pumped; really, really excited and happy about it all, got out of the pool and not one positive comment came from her,” he said on The Big Deal.
“She just dove straight into negativity. For me, Giaan’s been in the sport for a very long time so she understands swimming – she understands the top two are the people who go to the major competition and if you don’t, then that’s just unfortunate – try again next year.
“It kind of sucked that someone I’d had quite a lot to do with in my time dove into that. I think for me, I won’t stop and speak to Giaan or speak on pool deck now because I pay to race in that event. My family pay to be in the stands, my grandparents come across to watch that meet ... I’m so proud of my achievement and then I get out of the pool and have that kind of happen.
“It’s just not worth (it), I have no obligation to stop. I get home to Port Lincoln and all my social media is all that (competition with Simpson) and negative interviews or articles. Go on Instagram it’s all I’d see, go on Facebook it was all I’d see.
“It was very, very fatiguing and exhausting. It was something I didn’t want to deal with.
“I was so proud of my achievement and I felt my achievement kind of just got cut down, struck away and I found it very challenging to deal with. I know it’s going to happen again because I’m going to unfortunately have to race that event again against the same person and hopefully it’s the same result, but I’m going to have to face it again.”
Kyle Chalmers thought about retiring from swimming
Chalmers admits that the negative press and the constant speculation about his personal life took a massive toll on his mental health and left him contemplating retiring from the sport at 24. The Olympic champion says the interview with Rooney was essentially his tipping point.
“I was definitely contemplating retirement when that all happened, I wrote down a retirement speech – ‘what’s the point?’, I’m in so much pain with my shoulders at this stage,” he revealed. I’m living in pain, this has all happened, what’s the point in doing this? I’ve fought my way back from everything.
“It was a hard lesson to learn last year when I had the media turn against me when I’d had their backing for such a long period of time,” he added. “For me, I stood up and said what I needed to say and obviously (it) impacted me a massive amount, to a point where I was like: ‘I don’t know whether I want to swim anymore and put myself through this because what’s the point?’
"Like what am I actually getting out of this to justify this? I didn’t get in the sport or get into sport in general to have to deal with something like that when I’d done nothing wrong. They just kind of decided to target me and bring me down to write some stories.”
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