Content Chalmers happy for spotlight to be on US rival Dressel
Kyle Chalmers is a vision of calm just days out from the start of the swimming world championships in Korea, where his 100-metre freestyle showdown with America's latest star Caeleb Dressel will be among the most-hyped races of the eight-day meet.
At this point, the Olympic champion is more concerned about whether to channel Mark Spitz and leave in place the moustache he's been carefully cultivating for the past month. He's not convinced it would slow him down even a fraction of a second, so prepare for a potential throwback statement on pool deck.
Rise and shine: Kyle Chalmers is ready to fire at the world championships.Credit:AAP
Chalmers can feel relaxed because, by this point, the work has been done and done well. He's in career-best shape, having trimmed almost three kilograms from his hulking physique, and arrives in the Korean city of Gwangju ready to throw down with his key rivals ahead of next year's Tokyo Olympic Games.
Dressel sits on top of that list. A swaggering sprinter from Florida with a huge eagle tattooed on his shoulder, Dressel won seven medals at the 2017 world championships and has been anointed the next Team USA giant in the post-Phelps era.
They are impossible shoes to fill and Dressel knows it. He does everything he can to avoid the comparisons, but the expectations on his shoulders are mighty. His 100m freestyle best for 2019 only has him ranked eighth, while Chalmers owns two of the three fastest times.
Living in reverse: Kyle Chalmers was just 17 when he won Olympic gold in Rio.Credit:AP
Even so, it will be Dressel who starts a heavy favourite. That's an ideal scenario for Chalmers.
"I’m happy to be the underdog and let the pressure and the eyes be on him," Chalmers said. "The more pressure the Americans put on him, the better. It doesn’t really worry me.
"To me, he’s just another swimmer and another guy in the marshalling room. I don’t really take in who my competitors are or been hugely involved in swimming in that regard. I’ve raced him a couple of times and managed to be successful. I swim to win, so hopefully I get that opportunity here and we go head-to-head."
Chalmers beat Dressel at last year's Pan Pacs, even though he felt well off the pace at that meet and had all but resigned himself to a poor swim in the finals. Instead, it was the race that relaunched his career after the dizzying highs of Rio, and he has barely looked back.
"It was huge [Pan Pacs]," Chalmers said. "I doubted myself a little bit going into the meet. It was probably the first time I went into a meet thinking, ‘I probably can’t win this race’. In the final, I turned eighth, which was a new record for me.
"To win, to beat Dressel, it gave me that belief that I’m still one of the best sprinters and it gave me a really good push. Once I cracked that 48-second mark again, I’ve been full of belief."
Moving in with girlfriend and fellow Dolphins squad member Madison Wilson in April last year was a major life moment for Chalmers, but it also came with an added dose of Uber Eats. Now he's eating better and has turned into a leaner, meaner swimming machine.
"It’s something I’ve definitely been working on, my leanness," Chalmers said. "Last year, at Comm Games and Pan Pacs, I was a bit on the heavier side. I raced at about 95kg and I’m down to about 92.5kg at the moment.
"It’s diet. I moved out of home in April last year and moved in with Madi. You end up getting Uber Eats and making things a bit easier. It’s about making the right choices and not snacking on the bad stuff as much. The training I’ve been doing is harder than last year and I’ve been focused on having a good world champs."
The scary thing about Chalmers is that, at 21, he still has so much more to give. He must improve on his morning swims, given that will be when the finals are swum in Tokyo, knows his technique is still scratchy in places and has tried to add speed to the first 50m of his races to keep up with the likes of Dressel, who takes it out like he's been shot from a cannon.
"I’ve done all right so far – just an Aussie punter trying to get through," Chalmers joked. "I can always play country footy.
"But that’s always been a huge thing for me. I won in Rio, but I knew there were so many things I could work on to be a better swimmer and better athlete. That’s always been exciting … what can I reach and what can I do. There are still plenty of things I can do to be even better next year in Tokyo."
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