Former Australian swimmer turned popular TV presenter Johanna Griggs says Kyle Chalmers is “feeding” the very headlines he’s railed against at the Commonwealth Games as she issued a reality check about the media’s role in covering sport.
The swimming star has blasted the media in Birmingham, accusing it of focusing on “clickbait” rather than the impressive results of our men and women in the pool.
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There have been reports and speculation about an icy dynamic within the Dolphins camp, sparked by the relationship between Chalmers, Emma McKeon and Cody Simpson.
Chalmers and McKeon were romantically linked last year and now the 28-year-old superstar is dating Simpson — who is competing in England as part of his first ever Australian team since ditching his music career and returning to competitive swimming.
The trio have repeatedly denied their relationship has caused any friction.
Chalmers cast doubt on his future in the sport if what he called “fake headlines” continued to be thrust into the spotlight, saying the media doesn’t understand the impact his stories have on athletes’ mental health.
However, Griggs — who won a backstroke bronze medal at the 1990 Commonwealth Games — says Chalmers is only giving the story more oxygen by continually mentioning it in interviews and on social media.
“The only person who is going to potentially derail (his campaign) — although it certainly didn’t look like it this morning in his 100m freestyle — could be Kyle himself,” Griggs told Sydney’s 104.9 Triple M Breakfast with MG, Jess & Pagey.
“He seems to be feeding it, which is the ironic situation with all these sorts of things.
“You can’t just expect the headlines to always be great. You have to accept that occasionally they might be about other people and sometimes they may not necessarily show you in the same light.
“Do I think they (the headlines) are affecting Emma McKeon? Absolutely not.
“She’s amazing, right. So she’s proven, without question, that she is able to compartmentalize whatever’s going on.
Griggs, who is part of Channel 7’s team covering the Games, also suggested the freestyle king needs to accept headlines aren’t always going to be positive in the world of professional sport.
“I think it would be tedious for them, being asked about it non-stop,” Griggs told Triple M.
“If you’re a tennis player, that happens not only at every major tournament, it happens at every press conference, it happens at every week — same as the footballers, week in, week out.
“It’s the reality of sport so I’m hoping Kyle stops feeding it.
“I get he’s feeling incredibly swamped at the moment. Every time he mentions it, he makes it a bigger story.”
Chalmers has won gold medals in Birmingham as part of Australia’s mixed relay team and in the 4x100m men’s freestyle relay.
After his impressive swim in the heats of the individual 100m freestyle event, the 24-year-old was asked how he was feeling.
“Terrible. Terrible. It’s been probably the hardest 12 hours in my sporting career for sure,” he said. “It is extremely hard. Extremely challenging.
“When you’re on the other side of the world and don’t have your direct support network around you it’s already hard enough, let alone last night.”
Chalmers was referring to the previous day’s press conference, which was stopped after a barrage of questions about his dynamic with Simpson and McKeon.
He said the way the situation has unfolded left his mum in tears when they spoke after the relay victory.
“I really feel I don’t deserve any of that and to be honest with you, it makes me question why I do this sport and where my future lies going forward,” Chalmers said.
“I don’t want any of this. I swim because it’s what I’m good at. I love swimming. I love being part of the Australian swimming team. Standing up in front of big crowds and swimming fast, but I don’t want the rest of it.
“And for me it’s taking too much of a toll on my mental health. It embarrasses me that my family, my grandparents have to sit down and read the stuff that gets put in the media.
“It upsets me that I have to go home to my mum crying on FaceTime to me.”
He may be upset out of the water but in the pool, Chalmers looks as classy as ever. The South Australian — who won 100m freestyle gold at the Rio Olympics and silver at last year’s Tokyo Games — is eyeing off another medal in his pet event this week.
Chalmers crushed his 100m freestyle semi-final on Monday morning, touching the wall first and setting a new Commonwealth Games record time of 47.36 seconds.
Australian swimming champion Cate Campbell is working for Channel 7 in Birmingham and praised Chalmers for how he’s handling things during their poolside interview on Monday morning, before talk turned to his tattoos and what they symbolize.
“I’ve had three heart surgeries, I have a chain (tattoo) that is broken because my heart was holding me back and now it’s fixed,” Chalmers said.
“I’m the lion (tattoo) that’s broken out. So yeah, that’s a special one for me.”
Chalmers added he’s been brilliantly supported by those closest to him.
“I don’t have anything else to say, it’s rough,” he said. “It’s been a whirlwind. It’s nice to swim fast. I think it’s easy to put on a brave face and smile. It’s hard, it’s very hard.
“The team has been amazing.
“I just wanted to put my headphones on and switch off and not talk, (but) all of my teammates, coaches and staff coming up and saying they are there for me has been really special. I wouldn’t have been able to get through it without my teammates.
“I’m not a robot. We have feelings, we have emotions, we’re no different than anyone else. We struggle a lot, mental health is a huge thing in sport.”