MIKE COLMAN: Kyle Chalmers Should've Seen The Backlash Coming
Anyone who couldn't see that Kyle Chalmers' late backflip which robbed Cody Simpson of his spot in the Australian swim team would spark a 'love triangle' media storm must be living in a bubble.
Kyle Chalmers is.
Chalmers, gold medalist in the 100m freestyle at Rio, has gone to ground in recent days citing mental health issues following blanket coverage of his late decision to swim butterfly at the upcoming world championships in Budapest, costing former pop star Simpson his first Australian team blazer.
Cody Simpson celebrated his inclusion in Australia's Commonwealth Games team on Sunday
That move was seen by many as revenge for Simpson now being in a relationship with Chalmer's former girlfriend, Australia's most successful Olympian Emma McKeon.
Upset by coverage of the so-called love triangle and being portrayed as 'the villain', Chalmers stayed at home with his family rather than attend Sunday night's team announcement with the rest of the team, including Simpson and McKeon.
To which critics have said, 'Is he serious?
How could anyone not know how it was going to look? First, he says he's not going to the world championships. Then, when the bloke who's now living with his ex-girlfriend gets all the headlines for making the team, he decides he is. Then he blames the media for the fuss.'
The pop star only returned to swimming in 2020 and narrowly missed out on a spot in the Australian team for the world championships next month
Simpson was officially unveiled as squad member for the Australian Swimming team at a ceremony in Adelaide on Sunday night
And he was congratulated by Australia head coach Rohan Taylor (left) in Adelaide
But not everyone is critical of Chalmers.
Olympic great Grant Hackett - a man who knows more than most about the psychological pressures suffered by top athletes - is firmly in his corner.
'Good on him,' said Hackett, whose struggles with mental health following his retirement made headlines around the world.
'I wish I'd had that level of awareness needed to back off from the spotlight before things got too low for me.
'Knowing what I know now, if I had a few rough days like Kyle's just had it would be like water off a duck's back, but when you're the Golden Boy and things suddenly go sour, it's hard to take.
'When you're an athlete at the top of your sport, you're living in a high-pressure world.
There is the pressure of competing, the expectation of the country, and any negative is amplified. When people go from cheering everything you do to criticising you, it knocks you off your feet.'
Kyle Chalmers was a shock absentee from the team-naming ceremony on Sunday, citing mental health reasons after a tumultuous week for Australian swimming
Chalmers was initially expected to forego his spot in the 100m butterfly for the world championship, which would have allowed Simpson to compete in the event
But he changed his mind at the 11th hour and will take part in the world championships instead
And while Hackett agrees that Chalmers may have been naive not predicting the media storm his decision to take Simpson's spot would ignite, he says it was understandable.
'It's like there is a threshold where you go from being just an athlete to being a celebrity,' he said.
'It's like one day people are interested in whether you win medals, and the next they are interested in your personal life.
It takes you by surprise. You don't think of yourself as a celebrity. You're just doing laps.
'When you are a swimmer, you live in a bubble that you think is normal. You don't do the things that other kids your age do. I never went to Schoolies or took a gap year to travel overseas when I finished uni.
I was going to bed early and getting up in the dark to train.
Simpson said he understood his teammate's decision and had a frank conversation with him
There was speculation Chalmers' backflip came as his ex girlfriend Emma McKeon (left) is now dating Simpson, but the 2016 Olympic champion branded the rumours 'pathetic'
'I'm not knocking it.
Some great things came with it, and I wouldn't change it for the world, but there were some weird things too.
'I remember one time I was watching TV and there were these people discussing whether I was fat. It was like they had this survey on whether I was fat or not.
Imagine going through that when you're 19 or 20 years old.'
And Chalmers would appear to be more immersed in the bubble than most. He admits to having just two interests outside swimming: AFL football and reptiles.
A licensed lizard breeder, when not training or competing, Chalmers spends hours with his blue tongues, bearded dragons and snakes.
He is a regular contributor to reptile collector forums and produces a popular Instagram page under the handle kc_critters.
Swimming legend Grant Hackett (left) said Chalmers didn't have to justify himself for not attending the team selection ceremony on Sunday
While Cody Simpson, who has dated singer Miley Cyrus and a stream of models such as Marloes Stevens and Gigi Hadid, is no stranger to the publicity circus, Hackett believes Chalmers had no idea the firestorm he was going to create when he went back on his original decision not to compete in Budapest.
'I had a coffee with him a few months ago and he honestly didn't think he was going to swim at the trials,' he said.
'Then I think he was surprised by how well he swam, https://squareblogs.net/kora4live32/bth-mbshr-lywm-yl-shwt-yalla-shoot-new-mbr-tshylsy-dd-bryntfwrd his body felt good, and he thought 'well why not?'
'It was like a perfect storm for him. He was swimming in an event against someone with a huge profile, who happens to be taking out the girl he once took out, and of course the media was going to jump all over it.
'I'm pretty sure if he knew what was going to happen, he would have been much clearer about what he was going to do.
He would have said, 'I'll see how I swim and then I will make a decision on whether I will go to the worlds'. That way when he did a backflip it wouldn't have looked like he was trying to impact Cody.
Chalmers explained in an Instagram post he needed time away from the spotlight for mental health reasons, which is why he did not attend the ceremony in Adelaide
'It's so unfortunate it played out the way it did because they are both great people.
I've known Cody since he was a kid. His family lived across the road from me and I used to take him for rides on my jet ski.
'There's not one bit of entitlement in him. When he told me he was going to try to make it as a swimmer I told him, 'Mate, it's going to be hard' and he accepted that.
He's focused on it 100 percent.
'I just hope for the sake of the three of them that people forget about all this other stuff quickly and get back to worrying about performances.'