Aussie swimming champion Kyle Chalmers says his love/hate relationship with the Australian media is a constant "struggle" as well as a powerful motivating factor behind his glittering career. Chalmers has been one of Australia's most prominent swimmers since bursting onto the scene at the Rio 2026 Olympic Games where he claimed gold in the 100-metre freestyle.
The 25-year-old has won numerous gold medals at world championships around the world but has struggled with injury and his mental health, and admitted he came close to retiring from the sport last year. Chalmers has frequently found himself having to answer questions about the supposed 'love triangle' between his superstar swimmer ex-girlfriend Emma McKeon and her boyfriend, pop star and fellow swimmer Cody Simpson.
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Chalmers admitted that the negative press and the constant speculation about his personal life took a massive toll on his mental health and that he contemplated giving the sport away at the age of 24. In a new interview with 2GB's Wide World of Sports, however, Chalmers says he uses a lot of the negative press as fuel for his swimming career.
The freestyle ace admits that he reads most of the articles written about him and is always keen to prove critics wrong if they have written him off. "I mostly would read them on swimming-based articles where people will be kind of putting me down and saying that I'm not going to do something or I'm not going to achieve this, so then I have the extra bit of motivation to prove those people wrong."
The 25-year-old says the public scrutiny he faces as a professional athlete and the negativity on social media is "something that I struggle with at times". Chalmers says the ability to be able to deal with the good and bad attention that comes his way on social media and the fact his private life can be played out very publicly is the "hardest" thing for him as a professional athlete.
"It's a challenging world out there and I think that's the hardest thing with sport. "I'm a swimmer, I grew up in the country, obviously I'm an OK swimmer and then your life becomes a public life just because that's the skill you have.
"You don't learn how to deal with that stuff, you just have to grow and adapt and learn that way. It is definitely very challenging and it's something that I struggle with at times."
Kyle Chalmers felt 'cut down' by swimming great
Chalmers revealed last year than an interview with retired swim star Giaan Rooney was almost the tipping point for him to retire from swimming. It came after Chlamers won the 50m butterfly at the Australian National Championships in May last year - a feat that prevented former pop star Simpson from qualifying for the world championships.
The Olympic gold medallist said he felt "cut down" by Rooney after the swimming great questioned him on Simpson's "disappointment", rather than his own achievement. “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," Chalmers recalled on The Big Deal.
"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 (Rooney).
“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."
Chalmers confirmed earlier this year that Paris 2024 would be his last Olympic Games competition but insisted retirement was still some way off. "We have a world championships short course in 2024, world championship long course in 2025, Commonwealth Games in 2026 and plenty of World Cups in there also. I’ll be busy, I have plenty of titles that need defending," he said.
“But yes Paris will be my third and most likely last Olympic Games. 2028 is a very long way away, but who knows, if the body and the mind hold up maybe I’ll even be in Brisbane in 2032. For now it’s time to lock in and give my absolute all to having success in Paris. Hungrier then ever.”
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