SYDNEY (Reuters) – Former Olympic sprint champion Kyle Chalmers said he was feeling better than he has for years after winning the 100 metres freestyle on the final night of the Australian Championships at the Gold Coast Aquatic Centre.
Chalmers, who won the blue riband sprint in Rio as a teenager and lost out on gold by 0.06 seconds in Tokyo in 2021, has endured mental health issues and operations on both shoulders over the last three years.
Times were not a great focus at the four-day meet with most elite swimmers planning to taper for June’s Australian world championship trials but Chalmers was delighted after beating a bunch of young compatriots in 48 seconds dead on Thursday night.
“The body is the best it’s been since probably 2020 … when I had my shoulder problems,” Chalmers told reporters.
“My mind is also probably the best it’s felt since 2016. I feel the happiest I have in and out of the pool. I’m loving training and life. I’m very grateful for that.”
The 24-year-old, who took a mental health break last year after a row about his decision to race at the world championships, said he had made some changes to his life away from the pool.
“I’m actually working as a builder’s labourer two or three times a week and, as much as it hurts me, I’m loving it and I’ve never been happier,” he added.
In a surprise result on the final night, teenager Mollie O’Callaghan pipped Olympic champion Ariarne Titmus to the women’s 200m freestyle title to add to her victory in the 100m sprint and 50m backstroke earlier in the week.
The world 100m champion, O’Callaghan’s time of one minute 55.15 seconds ranked her third in the world in the four-lap race this year behind Canadian teenager Summer McIntosh and American great Katie Ledecky.
Titmus had already taken titles in the 800m and 400m earlier in the meet and was sanguine about clocking 4:00.49 in the latter, the event she also won in Tokyo and had been world record holder in until recently.
McIntosh smashed the record with a swim of 3.56.08 at the Canadian trials last month but Titmus was confident she had enough time to close the gap on the 16-year-old sensation before the world championships in Fukuoka, Japan in July.
“I think if I was under that four-minute mark it would have given me that extra confidence boost, but I know within myself where I’m at,” she said.
“I know the realm I have to be swimming to be on top of the podium at worlds.”
World and Olympic champion backstroker Kaylee McKeown clinched the 100m title in her pet stroke, and the 200m individual medley crown but also branched out with a shock title in the 200m breaststroke on Wednesday.
“It is just a real fun event for me and it was all about having no nerves and just coming out and giving it a real red hot crack,” McKeown said.
Samuel Short was the most successful male swimmer at the meet, the teenager sweeping the 400m, 800m and 1,500m freestyle titles all in world class times.
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Peter Rutherford)