KYLE Chalmers has given a sneak peek into a testing past year, saying his first national long course title win is the “best feeling I’ve had in quite a while”.
After claiming a surprise gold medal at just 18, Chalmers has endured a roller coaster ride since, battling health issues and the pressure that came with being an Olympic champion at such a young age.
But he rebounded on Wednesday night to beat a stellar field in the 200m freestyle at the Gold Coast Aquatic Centre to claim his place on Australia’s team for the Commonwealth Games.
“Honestly it is the best feeling I have had in quite a while,” said Chalmers, who beat Mack Horton to the wall in 1min 46.49sec.
“It has been a hard 12 months so to get back and race on the national stage and get my first long course title means so much to me.
COMM GAMES TRIALS:Titmus claims her place
“To be competing at my first Com Games is very exciting.”
After what he called a “shocking” heat, Chalmers used his speed in the final to get out faster without sacrificing the blistering finish that has become his trademark.
“I train to swim a good back end but this morning I had a shocker in the heats,” he said.
“I was out slower than Mack (Horton) who is a 1500m swimmer.
“I knew if I was going to be any chance, I had to go out that little bit stronger but still work on my strength which is the back end.”
In one of the deepest fields in the event in Australian history, the race became a bit more of a game of cat and mouse, with none of the finalists dipping under the automatic qualifying time.
Bond University pair Alex Graham and Elijah Winnington should also make the Games team as relay swimmers, although clubmate Cameron McEvoy, who faded badly after the opening 100m to finish last, will struggle to get a swim in the relay.
“Australia have a rich history in relays at Comm Games, so to be able to contest that relay with some of my best mates is a highlight for my swimming,” Chalmers said.
“I really wanted to qualify for the relay, it means the world to me.”
Earlier, Gold Coaster Laura Taylor qualified for a home Games by winning the 200m butterfly, beating golden girl Emma McKeon to the wall.
The tears started for Taylor as soon as she hit the wall after beating pre-race favourite Emma McKeon in the 200m butterfly to seal her place at the Games with a fairytale swim in the pool she can see from her home.
“I just can’t believe it,” Taylor said.
“To have friends and family here with such a big support (crew) getting out there before I raced and hearing the massive roar for my name just made me want to swim quicker.
“I was just so overwhelmed, so happy for it to be over.”
A former St Hilda’s student and Northcliffe Surf Life Saving Club member, Taylor is a Gold Coaster through and through and has long dreamed of representing her city at a home Games.
“I live at Main Beach, very close to the pool,” Taylor said.
“I can (see the pool from home). I look at it going, ‘I’m going there, hopefully’.”
The young gun announced herself as a likely contender after winning the NSW state championship, beating Emma McKeon.
She carried that form through to the trials, qualifying second-fastest through the morning heats before announcing her arrival in the final, making a decisive move on McKeon in the third lap that would eventually seal the win.
“I pushed off that wall at the 100m turn and I was with the girls and (thought), ‘I reckon I can drop them here’.
“I paid for it in the last 50m but it won me the race.”
In other events, golden couple Emily Seebohm and Mitch Larkin won the 100m backstroke titles, while Matt Wilson showed he will be a threat in the 200m breaststroke with an outstanding swim.
Earlier, Matt Wilson challenged the world record line for much of his 200m breaststroke before touching the wall in a personal best time of 2:08.31.
“I’ve been thinking about this Comm Games team since probably the last Comm Games,” the Blue Mountains product said.
“It’s been in my head for the last four years now.
“It’s been a lot of hard work, a few ups and downs, a few holes that I’ve had to get myself out of but it’s good.”