Rio Sprint King Kyle Chalmers Happily Contained In His Own Backyard

Kyle Chlamers AUS, 100m Freestyle Final, 18th FINA World Swimming Championships 2019, 25 July 2019, Gwangju South Korea. Pic by Delly Carr/Swimming Australia. Pic credit requested and mandatory for free editorial usage. THANK YOU.
QUENCH FOR WATER: Kyle Chalmers will be contained in a custom made "flume pool" on the side of his house in Glenelg, SA. Photo Courtesy Delly Carr (Swimming Australia).

Olympic champion Kyle Chalmers, dreading the thought of not being able to swim for six months, has returned home from a road trip back to his roots on the remote South Australian coast to a surprise that will put his Olympic plans back on track – and literally in his own backyard.

Chalmers had left his beachside home in Glenelg, on the outskirts of Adelaide , packing up his troubles in an old kit bag for an eight hour drive  – to contemplate life and a 12 month Tokyo Olympic hiatus.

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LOCKED AND LOADED: Kyle Chalmers means business at the NSW State Championships. Photo Courtesy: Anthony Burns APP (Swimming NSW).

Two weeks ago the Rio 100m freestyle champion arrived into Streaky Bay, a sleepy South Australian fishing village – situated on the West Coast of South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula near the picturesque town of Ceduna.

He was ready to roll up his sleeves  to work in his cousin’s marine repair shop while it was still open.

Sleeping in his swag (bedroll) in the family backyard – roughing it as Australian “swagmen” have done for decades when they go bush.

But at least Streaky Bay is a coastal town with a swimming enclosure located in the ocean at the end of its iconic 300m long Jetty.

It is sectioned off with a shark-proof swimming enclosure (built following shark sightings and a 9ft (2.74m) shark caught off the jetty in 1936).

Chalmers, who packed his wetsuit, spear gun and fins actually forgot his goggles and had to get his Mum to post them down to him so he could at least jump into the shark protected enclosure and roll his arms over.

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SHOULDER TO LEAN ON: Kyle Chalmers (centre) at the NSW Championships Photo Courtesy: Anthony Burns APP (Swimming NSW).

It’s that love and passion of the water that has caused Chalmers no end of concerns after his and 10,000 athletes around the world had their 2020 Olympic dreams put on hold for 12 months.

But the 21-year-old with an old head on those very broad young shoulders, is also conscious of doing whatever he can to ensure he gets the message out to “keep your distance” and ensuring survival in a world ravaged by COVID-19.

“It’s so important to spread the word throughout the community and even scaring people into doing the right thing so we can beat this thing,” said Chalmers, who with all swimming pools shutdown, will now have a “flume pool” installed on the side of his home in a shipping container to re-focus his Tokyo sights in a big way – allowing him to swim.

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GLENELG BOUND: A pool similar to one that will be inserted into Kyle Chalmers home in Glenelg. Photo Courtesy Shipping Container Pools.

A Queensland-based container pools company will provide the Rio sprint king with a customised 6.5m x 2.5m pool, complete with a powerful impeller motor.

“I have been very fortunate through my coach Peter Bishop who really drove it and my management group who contacted Shipping Container Pools, who will provide me with a pool right up until the Olympics,” said Chalmers, who is priming himself to become the first Australian to win back-to-back 100m freestyle crowns.

“It has a powerful jet to swim against and I get to custom design it to my preferences.

“I’m very excited about it and I’ll get it in a month; it’s a huge stress off my mind and that really was my biggest concern not being able to swim for six months but now I’ve got the possibility to swim in this pool I’m very excited about it.

“Living where I live in Glenelg we don’t have huge backyards – In fact in my place I actually don’t have a backyard at all.

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BACKYARD BLITZ: A similar pool for Kyle Chalmers. Photo Courtesy: Shipping Container Pools

“So we had to take out part of my garden and put a cement slab down to be able to house it for the time being down the side of my house.

“Having the luxury of putting this pool in will make this time that much easier.

“For me I know its definitely worth doing, swimming to me is what I love doing and the fear of not swimming for six months and being able to do what I love was becoming quite a daunting challenge.

“I’m so grateful that the company has jumped on board and are willing to support me through it.

“They’ve called me every day and they are just as excited as I am and they are going to put my signature on the bottom on the pool which is pretty cool and I’ll add a few of my own touches to it so it will really feel like my own.

“It will make the time go that much quicker and its one less thing I don’t have to worry about.”

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FLYING START: Kyle Chalmers (in the closest black cap) at the 2020 NSW State Championships and in the best “in season” form of his life. Photo Courtesy: Anthony Burns APP(Swimming NSW)

Kyle Chalmers had been “on fire” and on the eve of lock-down life as we now know it  and just two weeks before the Games were postponed he had posted the fastest times he’d ever swum in season saying “definitely the stuff I was doing in training was the best I’ve ever done.”

“I was in the best shape of my life, skinfold wise, strength wise and injury free (after an annoying back problem) so for some it was hard knowing how much hard work I had put in.

“And the sacrifices I had made especially over these last few months to get to that point and then not being able to see where the season takes me is a challenge.

“But I know that next year I’ll be a year older, a year closer to my prime and I know I can get back into that shape to defend my title in swimming’s blue ribband event and attempt to become the first Australian to win back-to-back gold in the 100m freestyle.

“I know the stuff I can push myself to do in training now and for me it’s just about doing things outside the pool for the next six months that are going to make me better in the pool.”

Until Chalmers custom-made container pool arrives he’s got a friend with a 14 metre backyard pool to feed his swimming habit.

“I‘ll jump in there and have a crack maybe two to three times a week for a while to build back up,” said Kyle Chalmers, who has also arrived home to put a routine together.

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MADE IN MARION: Peter Bishop’s Marion HP Squad Photo Courtesy Kyle Chalmers Instagram

“Our squad at Marion, 10 of us, are doing gym over Zoom three times a week and I actually just got off a Zoom Yoga session.

“And essentially I’ve got something every day that gives me routine, I need to have that routine and structure; I’m about to go down and write down my weekly plan that I can stick to so I’m not just sitting around bored.

“If I can keep my mind active and my body active I’ll be able to get through this very comfortably.

“I’m coming up with quite a structured routine…that’s going to take up most days so I do have things to distract me and I know that when I am doing exercise it is very good for the mind so I’ll be doing as much exercise as I can.”

Friday morning for his 10-strong squad is hiking day in groups of two; leaving three minutes apart to ensure they adhere to the strict social distancing.

“Doing those types of things makes the time go a bit easier…I love my squad and I love my team and I guess you spend so much time with them when you are in the normal routine so when that gets taken away from you it does get quite hard,” said Chalmers.

“It feels like you are not allowed to be with your family almost, so being able to catch up with them for an hour or two each day over Zoom fills that void for the time being.

“All these things are challenges; you have to be adaptable and the people that are most adaptable are going to come out of this stronger and learn plenty of things about themselves and be stronger humans.

“I’m making sure I’m doing everything I can to be as adaptable as possible.”

Chalmers admits it has taken him a while to get to this point in his career.

“There has certainly been lots of challenges throughout the four-year block and there were times I didn’t think I would be able to get back to this point,” he said.

“But I know now I’ve done all the right things to get to where I am now and that’s why I think I can cope with the (postponement) news and realise I’ve got so many other things in my life that I’m grateful for.

“Mentally I’m in a really good spot and I’m making sure I stay in that spot by tapping into the right people to help me continue on.”

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BALL AND ALL: Couch time a rarity for exercise hungry Kyle Chalmers but his footy is never far away. Photo Courtesy: Kyle Chalmers Instagram.

Australian Football has always been a constant in Chalmers’ life and he rarely goes anywhere without a Sherrin football under one arm and his swimming costumes in the other.

His best mate, Sam Jacobs, is a ruckmen in the Australian Football League (AFL) who lives 200m down the road, and will line up with 2019 beaten grand finalists Greater Western Sydney Giants – in a season now on hold due to the Coronavirus.

“Sam has been away too in his home town Ardrossan, in the country and as soon as he’s back in town we’ll be going for a kick most afternoons and a bit of a jog around,” said Chalmers.

“It’s important to find people in the same position as you; train together and get through it together so I’ll definitely be tapping into him on a daily basis.”

You get the feeling that a contented Kyle Chalmers, now contained in his own backyard, will come out of this lockdown, stronger and more hungrier than ever – his thirst for water finally quenched.

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10 comments

  1. Peter Watts

    Great story, just one minor detail- Chalmers will be aiming to be the first Australian MALE to go back to back in the 100 Free. Dawn Fraser three-peated from 56 to 64.

  2. Wendy Mount

    That’s dedication for sure. !!!😃 All the best in 2021 Kyle. 🏊🏼

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