Kyle Chalmers said it took all his strength and courage to win his third gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in the men’s 100m freestyle.
It wasn’t his fastest swim, but he said it was “bigger than just me racing”.
“It’s very, very bittersweet. It’s been the most-challenging, probably 48 hours of my swimming career,” Chalmers said.
“And, as much as it’s nice to win, it’s probably just a big sense of relief, rather than the satisfaction that I thought I’d feel and want to feel after a performance like that.”
Chalmers has been the center of intense scrutiny over his personal life, and it came to a head at the Sandwell Aquatics Center a couple of nights ago, where he faced more questioning over unsourced rumors about rifts in the team after winning the men’s 4x100m freestyle relay .
The 24-year-old considered walking away, and admitted he barely slept ahead of the 100m freestyle heats.
But I have pushed on to send a message.
“I’ve definitely had big battles with mental health over a long time, and it’s one of the most-challenging things that I’ve had to face and see my teammates face and family face,” he said.
“I think it’s important that people have the courage to stand up and speak about it.
“I’ve been around for a while and I need to create the conversation and try to help people going through similar things and just make it more normal.
“If I can be a positive influence and try to help people in the same struggles, I know that I’m doing my job in the sport and hopefully inspiring people.”
Chalmers was also racing for a special viewer back home.
His brother is in the army and hasn’t had access to his phone, but he was given special permission to watch the race.
“He’s my best mate, someone I haven’t got to speak to a lot over this last little period. And the only reason I was able to have the strength to get back in the pool yesterday for the heat was FaceTiming my brother the night before,” Chalmers said.
“I think, for me, it’s going to be a while to break down what’s just happened,” he added.
“I’m very, very grateful for all the support I’ve had at home, and it’s been very overwhelming how many people have reached out to me and so many high-profile people as well who fight similar battles in their sports or respective fields.”
Kyle’s father, Brett Chalmers, spoke to Mix 102.3 Adelaide after the 100m freestyle medal win, and said Swimming Australia does not do enough to protect athletes from invasive media questioning.
“They failed hugely,” he told the Ali Clarke Breakfast Show.
“To me, it’s the workplace. They’ve got a due diligence to look after their people and their staff and their athletes right from the start.”
The former AFL player became emotional when he was asked about the media furore surrounding his son’s Birmingham campaign.
“If it was in [another] workplace and you kept getting asked the same question over and over and over again, it’s a form of bullying and harassment,” Brett Chalmers said through tears.
“It’s not condoned and it’s not accepted. You’d be pulled into the manager’s office or HR’s office pretty fast and if you didn’t stop you’d probably lose your job.
“These people get away with it. They destroy people’s lives and livelihoods.