Kyle Chalmers, Bringing Belief To The Blocks, Happy For Caeleb Dressel To Be Hot Favourite

Flashback to Rio and Aussie gold for Kyle Chalmers - Photo Courtesy: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

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World Swimming Championships, Gwangju

All eyes are on defending world champion Caeleb Dressel, of the USA, as world swimming titles loom in Gwangju, South Korea – and that’s how Aussie Kyle Chalmers likes it, he said today in answer to questions suggesting he was the underdog going into battle.

An epic 100m freestyle battle between the Australian Olympic champion and the American World champion promises to be one of the highlights of the eight-day meet. The focus is so heavily on those two that other contenders, such as the man who beat Chalmers for the Commonwealth crown last year, Duncan Scott, of Scotland and Britain, hardly gets a mention going in.

That Dressel commands the headline is a no-brainer: seven golds at Budapest 2017 World Championships set a record and there is much talk of “next Michael Phelps”, perhaps without too much thought about what that would mean for the young sprinter with 2 relay golds down, 21 medals to go in Olympic waters if he’s to match the G.O.A.T. The count could get going in Tokyo next year with a match of Phelps’ golden eight-golds record of records, some say.

As it was with Phelps, Dressel is making his own history, one that will have more to do with Chalmers than Phelps come the hour. While many may see a two-swimmer race, Chalmers sees he’s in a race, assuming a place in the final, with seven others, Dressel among them.

The Australian, sporting a Spitzean moustache he says he may leave on for the big race, told his national media today as the Dolphins arrived in Gwangju:

“I am happy to be the underdog and let the pressure and eyes be on him. I guess the more pressure the Americans put on him the better. It doesn’t really bother me. To me he is just another swimmer. I swim to win and hopefully I get that opportunity here and we get to go head to head.”

The big title holders will clash for the first time in the 4x100m free relay on Sunday, assuming no mishaps. Thursday brings the crowd-pulling there and back.

Dressel claimed 2017 gold in a blistering 47.17, while Chalmers popped an eye-watering 47.35 at Australian trials last month, his time and status hardly likely to make a champion disappear under the radar some are suggesting he’s flying under. On that score, Dressel would be there with him, on 47.86 at best this season – and all of that irrelevant the moment the meet starts.

Last time out saw Chalmers take Dressel at the Pan Pacific Championships in Tokyo last year. Chalmers recalled:

“It was huge. I probably doubted myself a little bit going into the (Pan Pacs) meet. It was probably the first time when I raced thinking I probably can’t win this race. I hadn’t swum overly fast leading into Pan Pacs. But to beat Dressel, it gave me that belief that I am still one of the best sprinters – I have been full of belief (since).”

An essential weapon that no-one need turn up for the final without, especially one in which neither Chalmers nor Dressel nor a few others will be underdogs in the fight, the term meaning “a competitor thought to have little chance of winning a fight or contest”.