Teenage star Chalmers claims shock men’s 100m freestyle victory
Australian Kyle Chalmers roared to victory in the blue riband event of the men's swimming programme, the 100m freestyle, smashing the world junior record for the second time in two days with a time of 47.58 secs at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium on 10 August.
Trailing seventh at the turn, Chalmers powered through the field in the last 50 metres to become the first Australian man to win the event since Mike Wenden at the Mexico City Games in 1968. Pieter Timmers of Belgium took the silver in 47.80 secs and defending Olympic champion Nathan Adrian of the United States claimed the bronze in 47.85 secs.
Only 0.83 seconds separated all eight men as the spray flew in the final drive for the wall. The victory made Chalmers Australia’s youngest swimming Olympic champion since Ian Thorpe won gold at the 2000 Sydney Games aged 17.
“I have definitely flown under the radar,” said Chalmers of a win that he admitted had taken him by surprise. “I flew under the radio at the trials, I stayed away from the media and just did my own thing. Coming into this, I didn’t think it was possible. It’s not sinking in that I’ve actually won, so I’m very excited.”
In Australia, Chalmers has been compared to the “Thorpedo”, who won five Olympic gold medals in an illustrious career. Chalmers said that Thorpe penned him a letter of support with sage advice on the eve of his final.
“He is someone who I’ve looked up to my whole life,” said Chalmers. “He gave me some advice leading into the event, telling me to just take in every second of tonight and enjoy the moment, so that’s definitely what I did.”
Australia had been looking towards the more experienced race favourite Cameron McEvoy to deliver the gold. But he finished seventh, and Chalmers said he felt plenty of sympathy for his room-mate, who had been a tremendous support for him in the run-up to the final.
“It’s hard being in this situation because I’ve been racing with a team-mate who’s looked after me all week and roomed with me. I don’t want to celebrate too much because I know it would have been really hard for him tonight. I’ve won an Olympic medal and he probably hasn’t swum to his best, which hopefully he turns around tomorrow and swims well in the 50m freestyle. He’s a great guy.”
The focus was on Chalmers but silver medallist Timmers exceeded his own expectations to finish second and said he was delighted to claim a podium place. “I was very surprised with my final position. I knew I had a small chance to go for the medals so this is just incredible. To get a silver medal is unbelievable.”