When former teen heartthrob Cody Simpson revealed he was serious about his ambitions to make the Olympics, few took him seriously.
Though the 24-year-old was a talented junior swimmer who earned numerous state titles, consensus was that Simpson's years spent away from the pool pursuing his musical career would leave him too far behind his peers.
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While the upcoming Tokyo Games are well and truly out of Simpson's reach, former Olympic great Grant Hackett believes the former singer has shown enough in his training over the last few months to have a credible shot at being selected for the 2024 Olympics in Paris.
Hackett admitted to being curious about Simpson's surprise Olympic ambitions, but has since begun mentoring him after being impressed with his work ethic.
“I spoke to him at the start of the process, just to see if he was really committed, and this guy was 100 per cent serious,” Hackett said.
“It blew me away. I’ve known Cody for a very, very long time.
“It was quite astonishing to think he’d had this really established career in a completely different field, but he never lost the desire to go to the Olympics.”
Hackett was speaking in a dual role both as Simpson's mentor, as well as a commentator for the upcoming Amazon Prime series Head Above Water, which will follow Olympic hopefuls Bronte Campbell and Kyle Chalmers, as well as former Olympic great Ian Thorpe, in the lead-up to the July Olympics in Tokyo.
The documentary series will also follow Simpson's return to the pool.
As someone intimately familiar with swimming's dizzying highs and brutal lows, Hackett said Simpson would need to show ultimate commitment for the next few years in order to qualify for Paris.
“Swimming is a completely unforgiving sport,” he said.
“If you don’t do the work you’re going to get exposed. There is nowhere to hide.
“I think he’ll be right there with the top guys to be honest. If he keeps the degree of focus that he’s having right now he’ll be right there with our best athletes.”
Cody Simpson makes eye-catching return to competitive swimming
Simpson put his Olympic rivals on notice after delivering a stunning performance in his return to competitive action at the Australian Swimming Championships on the Gold Coast back in April.
The pop star who once famously dated Miley Cyrus, was a mysterious no-show for the heats of his preferred 100m butterfly event but came good in the 50m event.
The singer-turned swimmer hit the wall in a time of 24.68 seconds in the 50m butterfly, finishing fifth in his heat.
He agonisingly missed out on clinching a spot in the final - missing out by just 0.02 seconds after clocking the 11th best time overall.
Considering it was his first competitive race in more than 10 years and he only signalled his intentions to have a crack at qualifying for the Olympics last year, it was an immensely impressive effort from the talented star.
Simpson looked somewhat disappointed with his swim afterwards, suggesting the 24-year-old believes he has even more speed to showcase.
The Australian National Swimming Championships is one of the major meets before June's Olympic trials in Adelaide.
Simpson turned heads earlier in the week after showing off his ripped physique during a training session on the Gold Coast.
He was also spotted on Thursday chatting poolside with Aussie Olympic swimming legend Ian Thorpe.
Last year, the former pop star gave himself a shot at competing in the Tokyo Games after smashing the qualifying benchmark of 56.87 seconds, with a time of 54.9s in the 100m butterfly.
Simpson had been training in the United States with Aussie Olympian Brett Hawke, before his recent return to Australia to compete.
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