Two days ago, the name Kyle Chalmers would have left a lot of people scratching their head -- even after he swam in Australia's Olympic bronze medal-winning 4x100m freestyle relay. How things change.
Chalmers is Australia's latest sporting hero after he became the nation's first Olympic 100m freestyle gold medalist since Mike Wenden in the 1968 Games in Mexico City.
So who is Kyle Chalmers?
His father, Brett Chalmers, is a South Australian football icon who built his reputation with state league club Port Adelaide. He played 120 games that earned four premierships as well as a Jack Oatey Medal as man of the match in the 1998 grand final. Chalmers also played a total of 75 games for both Adelaide Crows and Port Adelaide in the Australian Football League, and the allure of football seemed to be drawing his son in.
Growing up in Port Lincoln, South Australia, Kyle Chalmers dreamed of following in his father's footsteps. He stumbled into swimming only when he decided to participate in a school swimming carnival "for fun." But powered by his enormous feet -- size 11 at age 11 -- Kyle stormed to victory in his school carnival, and things snowballed. Seven hour-plus journeys to compete in South Australian championships became de rigueur, and his swimming rose to levels that saw him qualify for national titles and thus commit more time to swimming than to football.
Chalmers broke his first national age record in 2012, in the 13-and-under 100m freestyle. Since then, he has claimed every Australian age record in this event and added the world junior mark in the heats at Rio 2016.
Chalmers was competitive as an under-age entrant at the World Youth Olympics in 2014, but it wasn't until the 2015 world championships that he began to stand out from the crowd. Australia failed to qualify for the 4x100m freestyle relay final, but Chalmers clocked a 47.92 split as the second man off the blocks. Of the 120 swimmers who competed in the heats, Chalmers' time was the third fastest.
He stamped himself a swimmer to watch with three gold medals at the 2015 world junior championships in Singapore, where he touched the wall first in the 100m freestyle (48.47), 50m freestyle (22.19) and 4x100 freestyle relay (48.41 split). Attending school at Immanuel College in Adelaide, Chalmers decided to concentrate on his Olympics preparation while undertaking work experience at AFL club Port Adelaide.
Although he went to the 2016 Australian Olympic trials in Adelaide as a rising star, he still had not made his name. With 2012 Olympic silver medalist James Magnussen missing automatic selection, Chalmers went under the radar, even after he finished second to golden boy Cam McEvoy in a time that broke the world junior record.
Chalmers arrived in Rio de Janeiro still not spoken about in major circles, and it wasn't until his split time in the 4x100m freestyle heats that people began to take notice. His time of 47.04 was easily the quickest of any swimmer in the heats. Then Chalmers played a critical role in securing Australia the bronze medal in the final of the 4x100m relay, as he swam the second leg and moved Australia from eighth to second. Still, many still thought McEvoy was the Australian to beat in the individual event.
Chalmers turned in a seventh-place finish in the semifinal of the 100m freestyle, and many thought he had too much to overcome. Having built his fast-finishing style on that of childhood idol Ian Thorpe, however, Chalmers knew he was a chance.
With his now size 15 feet powering him along, he had what it took. Chalmers touched the wall in 47.88, the second-fastest qualifying time, behind defending champion Nathan Adrian (47.83) and ahead of McEvoy (47.93). He then produced an identical game plan in the final: After another slow start, he turned in seventh place before powering home to claim the title of sprint king.
The allure of AFL still floats around, but the mantra of being Australia's swimming icon -- and an Olympic champion -- should suffice for now.