Swim champ ditches treats and laps up his new life-balance
FRIDAY night used to be schnitzel night for Kyle Chalmers. He’d go to the Earl of Leicester Hotel with his mates, order the biggest chicken schnitzel he could get and devour it the same way he stalks and gobbles up his rivals in that devastating final 50m in the pool.
Then there was “Wendy’s Wednesday”, when his midweek treat was a “supershake”. Once a week, on any given morning he’d go to McDonald’s for brekkie after training and during the day he’d snack on lollies.
“And every lunch, I would eat out because that was my first period of being home by myself,” Chalmers said.
And then he won an Olympic gold medal in Rio. In the 100m freestyle.
That was the 2016 version of Chalmers – young, fast and fearless but who didn’t do much gym and barely knew what the word skinfold meant or pay attention to them.
To be fair, though, he didn’t give the Olympics much thought either until he got there, and even then he never pictured himself standing on the blocks, let alone on top of the podium after beating Caeleb Dressel and Nathan Adrian in the final.
The 2018 version of Chalmers is like a completely different person. Sitting on the pool deck at the SA Aquatic and Leisure Centre, he looked fit, strong, and to the uneducated eye, lean. But in a swimmer’s world, there’s lean and then there’s lean.
“I’m about 5kg overweight,” he says after returning to racing from his midyear break at the national short-course championships.
If Chalmers is 5kg overweight, he does a good job of hiding it.
“In Rio, I was 92kg but it’s unrealistic to get back to that because I was 18 years old with a very high metabolism, whereas that’s slowed down quite a bit now and I’m doing a lot of gym work,” he said.
“It’s more so now getting my body composition back to where I need it to be. I know I race well when my skinfolds are around 39; at the moment it’s about mid-50s.
“In Rio, I wasn’t thinking about those things and I could get away with eating anything I wanted,” he said.
A combination of things has now changed.
Naturally, Chalmers is maturing as a professional athlete – he is desperately hungry not for his next schnitzel but to defend his Olympic gold medal in Tokyo, and his Marion training squad has improved with the addition of interstate swimmers.
One of them is his girlfriend Madi Wilson – herself an Olympic gold medallist and world champion.
Chalmers has a lot to thank her for. “I’m very, very strict now (with diet) and having Madi around home has made me realise what a professional athlete should eat, and also I can’t get away with eating like I used to anymore,” he said.
“Now that I’m spending more time at Madi’s house, cooking for ourselves, I’m making the right choices.
“I was chatting to ‘Bish’ (coach Peter Bishop) about that the other day and I understand exactly what I need to do to get back to race weight and it will happen.”
Chalmers and Wilson make a good team inside the pool and out. If Wilson, 24, brings her professionalism, Chalmers, 20, brings the fun.
“He’s taught me about balance,” Wilson says. “He’s the social butterfly, I’m not as much.
“I was on the (national) team for a very long time, continuously doing the same thing and I’m at a point this year where I’m learning a lot more.
“It’s a bit later in my career but I know things outside of the pool have to be put in place properly to make it work in.”
Part of finding that balance was learning to enjoy the breaks from training when they arrived. After the Pan Pacs in Tokyo in August – where Chalmers won the 100m freestyle – he and Wilson went back to his home town of Port Lincoln with friend and Crows’ ruckman Sam Jacobs and his wife.
“It is nice to have a break and feel like what it is to live like a normal person, otherwise you do burn out,” Chalmers said.
“After the (Rio) Olympics, I thought this (swimming) was my entire life and I did everything I could and pushed everything aside and focused completely on swimming, and then I realised it wasn’t really working for me.”
Wilson moved to Adelaide in April and says she’s “lov-
ing it” but the period of adjustment in the water continues.
“I’m feeling very settled, it’s such a good facility and program here. I’ve never experienced anything as good as what they’ve got so I’m looking forward to the next two years.