‘False news:’ Chalmers unloads on reports of rift with McKeon, Simpson
An incandescent Kyle Chalmers has slammed suggestions of a rift with Emma McKeon, threatened to cut off all contact with the media and said his mental health remained in peril during a blistering press conference at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.
Chalmers had just anchored the Australian 4x100m freestyle relay to gold at the Sandwell Aquatics Centre but his post-swim interview quickly devolved into a shootout with reporters as he was forced to defend his conduct after the mixed freestyle relay triumph the previous evening.
Media reports accused Chalmers of failing to congratulate former girlfriend and relay teammate McKeon, who had swum the final leg. It also suggested they had to be separated during interviews and on the podium to avoid any further awkwardness.
But Chalmers was having none of it, firing back on all cylinders and saying he did congratulate McKeon and that he was stunned by the storyline after a night in which Australia had claimed five gold medals in the pool.
“Did you watch the whole race?” Chalmers said. “I said congratulations and we (McKeon) stood here right alongside you guys and spoke last night. I find that really hard to believe that I didn’t say congratulations after the race.
“I actually walked up and said ‘good job’ across the pool. We all said congratulations, we all did what we had to do and it’s an honour to be part of that team last night and win the first gold medal in the race at the Commonwealth Games and to do it with Australia’s most successful Olympian and now Australia’s most successful Commonwealth Games athlete is special.
“We win almost every single medal last night and again tonight and that’s the storyline. I think the media really need to start to grow up and focus on the good things. You look at America, they jump on the winners, they support.
“No matter what I do these days, the media wants to jump on when I have done nothing but give all to this country. I stand and talk to you guys after every race. Bad, good, I’ve always stopped to give you guys the time of day.
“There’s going to be a time when I definitely stop doing that if that’s going to be the case. I said exactly what I needed to do last night, I did the race, we won gold, everyone won gold and focused on the positives.”
Chalmers found himself in the crosshairs at the Australian trials in Adelaide after initially opting to skip the FINA World Championships then deciding to take a spot on the team after qualifying in the 100m butterfly.
That meant McKeon’s current beau, Cody Simpson, would have to wait until the Commonwealth Games to join the squad. Chalmers said the subsequent criticism made him think of quitting the sport for good as he sought refuge with family and friends in his hometown of Port Lincoln.
“In every other sport, people say they have mental health problems and people jump on board and want to support them. [In] swimming, everyone still wanted to roast me. I go back home to Port Lincoln, I come back to Adelaide and there are people taking photos of me saying ‘Kyle resurfaces’.
“It’s not focused on mental health, it’s focused on bringing me back down. You guys don’t actually realise the impact you have on athletes when we’re standing up to not only perform for ourselves but our countries. You guys can affect that a lot.
“After trials I really sat down and assessed whether I was going to continue on in the sport. For me, I have given everything to my country and everything to my sport. I was so proud of myself at trials, winning my 10th national title … and instead of focusing on the positives, you guys want to focus on the negatives again.
“The truth it I won’t be around forever and you enjoy it while you can. You can try and bring me down all you want but it’s only going to last so long and I will stop talking to the media.
“I can stand here and say everything positive now but I know you’re probably going to go home and be a keyboard warrior.”
Chalmers left nothing on his chest as he addressed his relationship with Simpson, who earlier in the day said had played down any suggestion of team division and said he spoke to Chalmers regularly.
“I say ‘good luck’ to Cody. I say ‘good job’ to Cody. I send him a message after the race. I do nothing but be positive. I try and support him on the team but again, people just want clickbait.
“It’s unfortunate. I can’t do anything right at this point in time. I’m here to swim and race. The next story will unfold eventually. People that know swimming and know me is all I care about. They all know the truth.”
When challenged about whether there were divisions in the team and issues with Simpson, Chalmers said: “Who’s to say that we’re not together? I’d like to know that. Have you been in the village? Have you seen us? Exactly. So how can you say that we’re not together?
“I think it’s fantastic he’s here. It’s great for our sport. It brings new viewers in. What he’s achieved in two years of swimming is incredible. Focus on the positives rather than trying to make up some story that’s not actually true.
“We’ll chat tonight about. We’ll chat tomorrow. We’ll chat in the marshalling room. It’s all just false news that’s actually crap. It’s a load of shit that’s not true. It’s words getting put in mouths and you wanting to make a story out of nothing.”
Earlier in the night, McKeon said Chalmers had shaken her hand after the relay and said she wasn’t even aware of the controversy that surrounded the end of the race.
“He did (congratulate me),” McKeon said. “We always put a good team together and mixed relays are always fun.”