And just like that, Australia has its face-of-the-Games in its schoolboy 100m Olympic champion.
At the launch of the Australian Olympic team uniform on Sydney Harbour last April, a line of Games prospects line up to show off the gear for Rio. Sally Pearson was there, still hoping to beat the clock and make a successful comeback from injury. But it was curious how the 2012 gold medallist didn’t draw the most attention from the assembled media.
The throng instead directed its focus toward a then 17-year-old who had only come to prominence that month. Kyle Chalmers had surprised James Magnussen and a host of others to snag the second spot on the swim team in the 100m free.
It was an outstanding achievement for a kid who was still setting junior records. But there was more going on; the South Australian had an ineffable It-factor. For a sport beginning to get nostalgic about the just-recent past, Chalmers hearkened back to the likes of Thorpe and Perkins as a potential crossover star. The backstory is irresistible: still in year 12 in Immanuel College, son of AFL footballer Brett, hailing from the fishing town of Port Lincoln, with a look that screams Aussie swimming champion.
But Rio was seen as something of a learning experience for the teenager going to his first major meet (let alone an Olympics), with the notion that he would be primed for four years’ time in Tokyo. Instead, after capturing a title that had frustratingly eluded his compatriots in previous Games, Chalmers’ time is now.