Mind over matter for swimmer Chalmers

·3-min read

For Kyle Chalmers, it's his mind that matters.

The reigning Olympic 100m freestyle champion has finally got his head around his status as an Australian sporting hero.

Now, Chalmers is trying to shut out thoughts of a lingering shoulder injury ahead of the selection trials for the Tokyo Olympics, which he concedes is nigh-on impossible.

"I don't think I will ever be at that stage," he told AAP.

"After going through obviously a pretty serious injury on the shoulder, you become a whole lot more aware of your body.

"I have just had to push that pain aside and that frustration and just get on with it.

"It's a big mental hurdle ... (but) I am at a point now where it's manageable and I am able to deal with it and swim through it."

Chalmers had surgery on his left shoulder last November.

And at the selection trials in Adelaide starting June 12, he'll use his mind to overcome the shoulder matter.

Asked to rate his fitness out of 10, Chalmers replied: "The day I stand behind the blocks, I'll give myself a 10.

"I have to believe that I am in the best shape of my life when I race otherwise I am going to have doubts."

Chalmers' struggles with his shoulder injury are a focus of a four-part documentary, Head Above Water, which premiered exclusively on Amazon Prime Video on Friday.

The 22-year-old revealed he was a swimmer addicted to pain.

"There's nothing more rewarding than pushing my body to the limit, day-in day-out," he said.

"And then coming home and being so physically exhausted and sitting on the couch and reflecting on the session you have done.

"That is probably where I get my little endorphin hits ... we do 50 weeks of training a year so that's probably what I am addicted to, that feeling.

"I love nothing more than in training being exhausted and not thinking I can push through and having to win that mental game to get myself to the wall."

When the Tokyo Games were postponed last year, Chalmers returned to his birth place - Port Lincoln on South Australia's Eyre Peninsula - and slept in a swag in a cousin's backyard for a month.

The self-confessed country boy fished and hunted, a world away from being feted as a sporting hero - a status he described as "probably the most challenging thing" about his gold-medal win at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

"Leading into Rio ... I was able to fly under the radar no matter what," he said.

"Whereas now, I have people taking photos of me all the time or asking for signatures, sponsorship commitments, the documentary - the list goes on of things I am doing different.

"It adds pressure and stress but the truth is, it's all part of being a professional athlete. The hardest thing for me has just been adapting to that."

And the expectation of joining a group of just six Australian swimmers to successfully defend Olympic crowns?

"I don't have any internal pressures on myself," Chalmers said.

"There is definitely a whole lot of external pressures but I try and not think about it all that much.

"It's stressful and hard. And we in Australia definitely build our athletes up.

"It has been seen over the last couple of Olympics where people have been built up to win Olympic gold medals and haven't been able to cope with the pressure.

"I hope that I have been able to learn from their mistakes."

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