Kyle Chalmers cited the toll from “made up story lines” on his mental health for missing the announcement of Australia’s swimming team on Sunday night. He was absent when Dolphins squads for the world titles and Commonwealth Games were named and the swimmers presented pool-side after the national titles in Adelaide.
En lugar de, the Olympic gold and silver medallist was with family at his home town of Port Lincoln, some seven hours drive from the South Australia capital.
Some reports – totally unfounded – during the national trials suggested Chalmers changed his mind about racing at next month’s world championships out of spite. Chalmers was romantically linked with Emma McKeon last year. McKeon now dates Cody Simpson, a pop star who has returned to the pool.
The tabloid narrative suggested Chalmers reversed his decision not to swim at the worlds to keep Simpson off the team. Chalmers finished second behind Matt Temple in the 100 metres butterfly at the selection trials, with Simpson third. Only the top two secured selection for next month’s world championships in Budapest. If Chalmers stuck to his original decision to skip the worlds, Simpson was set to be picked.
“The past few days have been really challenging for me mentally and emotionally and it’s taken a massive toll on me,” Chalmers posted on Instagram. “I need to look after my mental health and get myself right as I prepare for a massive year in the pool.
“The negative media attention surrounding my decision to compete at worlds and the made up story lines surrounding my personal life have been more than I can handle. The best thing for me right now is to take a break at home in Port Lincoln, surrounded by my friends and family.”
McKeon, who won four gold medals and three bronze at last year’s Tokyo Olympics, did not swim in Adelaide. Her Olympic success guaranteed her pre-selection on the teams but she is skipping the worlds anyway to focus on the Commonwealth Games in July and August.
McKeon described the fictional furore as “strange”.
“That is my personal life and I am quite a private person so, Si, I don’t really like having it as news,” she said at the team presentation. “I just block it out. As I said, I am a private person and I think I will always be that way. I am close to my family, close to my friends, y … they’re the ones I open up with.”
Simpson missed selection for the worlds, but he is on the Commonwealth Games team which had a looser selection criteria of a top-three finish at the trials.
“I have just tried to stay calm … and just trying to not look at what everyone was saying and writing and posting,” Simpson said. The celebrity swimmer “absolutely” understood Chalmers’ reasoning for his change of mind and Chalmers’ right to do so.
“People like to spin a story and find a story out of something,” Simpson said. “He [Chalmers], considering the limited prep he has had, got up and gave an incredible effort so nothing but respect to him for doing that. And he’s well within his rights to decide to swim.
" … If the tables were turned and I was in that position and I said I wanted to swim, I’d hope people would understand and respect that I had earned that place.”