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'I told Kyle: do you want to be an AFL star, or a world star... he chose the second one'

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Be like Kyle. That’s what Australia’s swim team are telling themselves as they seek to ride in the wake of Kyle Chalmers’ extraordinary gold medal performance in the pool.

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The teenaged Chalmers became the first Australian Olympic 100m freestyle champion in 48 years with yesterday’s stunning triumph in Rio.

Now, his teammates want to be like Kyle.

“If we can all enhance our little Kyle, we will do really well,” Australian backstroker Belinda Hocking said overnight, Australian time.

Chalmers’ name is on everybody’s lips – at the Rio pool, in Australia – particularly his native South Australia – and around the swimming world.

And Australian hierarchy are confident the 18-year-old’s new-found fame won’t go to his head.

“His world has changed from now on,” Australian swimming’s head coach Jacco Verhaeren said.

“But I’m pretty confident he can deal with that. He is very grounded and emotionally stable guy.”

epa05472968 Gold medalist Kyle Chalmers of Australia is congratulated by fans after winning men's 100m reestyle Final race of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games Swimming events at Olympic Aquatics Stadium at the Olympic Park in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 10 August 2016. EPA/BERND THISSEN

Chalmers is congratulated by his family, including father and former AFL footballer Brett. Photo: BERND THISSEN, EPA.

Verhaeren made a phone call to Chalmers last year when the South Australian was tossing up between pursuing a swimming or AFL career.

“There’s a certain point in your career where you have to choose… you can’t keep doing both,” Verhaeren said.

“And of course he’s passionate for AFL.

“And what I once said as well, I’m not sure I told him to be honest, but there was going through my mind: do you want to be an AFL, a domestic star, or do you want to be a world star.

“And I’m happy he chose the second one.”

Asked if he was always confident Chalmers would be a world star, Verhaeren replied: “You never know. But if you play AFL, you’re sure you’re not.”

The swim coach said pursuing a footy career wouldn’t marry with swimming.

“You can’t combine these two sports,” Verhaeren said.

“There’s some other requirements you need to play AFL as opposed to swimming.

“For example you need flexible ankles (in swimming) which is not great for playing AFL anyway. And lots of other things.”

Chalmers’ personal swim coach, Peter Bishop, has remained in Adelaide during the Olympics.

In Rio, Chalmers has been working under Richard Scarce – fellow freestyler Cameron McEvoy’s coach.

“He’s a fantastic young athlete,” Scarce said.

“He’s easy to deal with … great young fella.

“And he delivered on the day and took his opportunity and got the job done, didn’t he?”

-AAP

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