Kyle Chalmers, who stamped his ticket to the pantheon of Olympic heights as 100m freestyle champion in Rio last year, appears to thrive up where the air is rare.
As part of his drive to be fighting fit come Australian World-title trials and nationals next month, the teenager sprint ace has been hiking up Mount Kosciuszko in the Snowy Mountains in New South Wales in between pool and gym sessions on an 11-day training camp at Thredbo.
Assuming all goes well at trials, Chalmers, the first Aussie to lift the blue ribband crown at an Olympics since Mike Wenden in 1968, will travel to Budapest this July for a follow-up World Championships with his new title in tow.
Unlike Kosciuszko – which used to be “Mount Kosciusko”, an Anglicisation, until “Kosciuszko” was officially adopted in 1997 by the Geographical Names Board of New South Wales, while native Aboriginal (Ngarigo) names for the mountain trip along the thread of Jagungal, Jar-gan-gil, Tar-gan-gil, Tackingal (and all adding up to ‘Table Top Mountain’ – the name of “Olympic champion” is one that cannot be altered nor, for the clean athlete, ever taken away.
Even so, seasons change and as Ryan Lochte once said “I start each one at zero again, with everything to prove and new goals to achieve – the past is just that”. True, with a pinch of present, of course. Chalmers, like Adam Peaty, Sarah Sjostrom, Lilly King, Mack Horton and others, approach the 2017 season with what is often referred to as “a target on my back”. Peaty says “pressure doesn’t exist” and when it feels like it might it is “something I just bat away”.
Chalmers was the pup among Dolphins back in 2015 when he made his first world titles for the 4x100m freestyle relay when working under the guidance of coach Shelly Jarrett (nee Camy). He returned from the global gathering to Marion swim club a world-class athlete about to come of age. Head coach at Marion, Peter Bishop, took over the teen’s day-to-day preparations on the way to promising Olympic trials and then the moment when Chalmers sealed his place in the book of swimming Australian immortals.
Now, three weeks out from Australian world-title trials and returning to the fray with Cameron McEvoy and Co, Chalmers has shrugged off a health scare and is said to be fighting fit. Talking to reporter Reece Homfray, at The Advertiser, Bishop recalled the missed first two days of the NSW state titles earler this month after the sprinter fell ill. Chalmers rose again on the third day and fell just shy of his best in the freestyle dash before popping a 48.5 leading off his club relay in the 4x100m freestyle. Bishop tells Homfray:
“So we’re pretty happy with that, considering most the week he wasn’t overly healthy. We probably could have raced him on the Saturday if he had some smaller events but he only had the 200m freestyle and he wouldn’t have been healthy enough to really max out a couple of 200s. So it was better we got him healthy for the camp and he’s responded really well.”
On camp, Chalmers and teammates, took in some golf, entertainment/distraction/cross-training stretching to a hike up Mount Kosciuszko. Assuming the strong likelihood that Chalmers will make it to Budapest, he will find himself a few hunders kilometres directly south of the person and place Kosciuszko was named after: Polish explorer Pawel Edmund Strzelecki – who became a British subject later in his life – was Down Under in 1840 and in honour of the Polish national hero, General Tadeusz Kościuszko, he gave Australia’s tallest peak its European name because the mountain resembled in shape the Kościuszko Mound in Kraków.
Strzelecki arrived at Sydney 158 years ago this April, At the request of the Governor of New South Wales, Sir George Gipps, he made a geological and mineralogical survey of the Gippsland region in present-day eastern Victoria. Among Strzelecki’s many discoveries was gold thereabouts in 1839. Gipps feared that his colony would be ruined if news of the gold got out so he asked Strzelecki to keep his find a secret.
No hiding Chalmers’ gold, of course. Australian nationals unfold in Brisbane from April 9-13. Bishop says that Chalmers has “done everything and more” on camp. Ahead of him, “mental freshening” and a tweak and a hone here and there on the physical as taper trips into trials.