As Kyle Chalmers rose out of the water and took his first full breath, he heard crowds screaming his praise. He’d just secured his fifth Commonwealth Games gold medal, one he’d been working towards for six years.
But instead of joining in the ruckus celebrations which ensued, Chalmers simply looked up and held one finger to his mouth. Silence.
The last few months for the world champion Australian swimmer had been a rollercoaster of emotions as claims of a “love triangle” emerged between himself and new couple Emma McKeon and Cody Simpson. While McKeon and Simpson kept relatively quiet about the salacious headlines that claimed there was an awkward rift between the three, Chalmers had a guts full, so to speak.
Here, we look at what was said about them, and why the swimmer spoke out.
What happened between Kyle Chalmers, Emma McKeon and Cody Simpson?
The private lives of Emma Mckeon, Cody Simpson and Kyle Chalmers ended up at the centre of tabloid fodder after salacious headlines painted a narrative describing a “love triangle” between the three.
It happened after Simpson and McKeon went public with their romantic relationship. The news came when the pair were in the final stages of training with the Australian swim team for the Commonwealth Games. They were hyper-focussed on the event that could result in one of the biggest highs of their career—hardly a time to get involved in a heated love triangle.
But tabloids had other ideas. A narrative quickly formed about a supposed rift between the new couple and Chalmers, who was previously romantically linked to Emma McKeon. Tensions and feuds were apparently rife within the Australian swim team as a result.
Of course, these claims were not only never confirmed by the swimmers, nor backed up with a believable source, but it was also completely irrelevant to the most important story here: Three professional swimmers were about to make history for Australia.
And make history, they did. McKeon became the most successful athlete in Commonwealth Games history after winning her 11th gold medal—she’s now also added a 12th to her impressive list.
Meanwhile, Simpson and Chalmers also made it onto the podium, helping to bring Australia’s medal total to a staggering 52.
But while Simpson and McKeon kept relatively quiet about the salacious “love triangle” headlines (Simpson has already had his fair share of tabloid takedowns after his very public relationship with Miley Cyrus), Chalmers wasn’t having a bar of it.
The 24-year-old rubbished reports as “false news”, adding that this victimisation was deeply impacting his mental health.
“It’s all just false news that is actually just crap, it’s honestly just a load of sh-t that is not true,” he told reporters in Birmingham.
He also responded to the most recent claims that he’d jilted McKeon when the pair had won gold in the freestyle mixed relay.
“I definitely said congratulations. If you watch the race back I actually walk up and say good job across the pool.”
He added: “I say good luck to Cody [Simpson], I say good job to Cody, I sent him a message after the race. I do nothing but be as positive as I possibly can.
“I support him on the team but, again, people just want clickbait on the article. It’s unfortunate that I can’t do anything right at this point in time.”
Chalmers then discussed how much he has been impacted by the gossip, revealing that he even considered stepping back from sport in order to prioritise his mental health.
“You guys [media] don’t actually realise the impact you have on athletes, when we’re standing up to perform for not only ourselves but our country, you guys can affect a lot. And for me after trials I actually really sat down and assessed if I was going to continue on the sport, because for me I had given everything to this country, I have given everything to my sport … instead of focusing on the positives, you guys want to focus on the negatives again.”
Barely two days after his comments, Chalmers won gold in the men’s 100m freestyle—an achievement six years in the making. He makes a shushing gesture as the race ends, then silence from the athlete who should be celebrating a career high.
“Normally I do a bit more powerful celebration after a win but that one was one that probably means more than giving a fist bump or flexing the muscles,” Chalmers explained to media after the win.
“It is special to win, but unfortunately I think it is hard to enjoy the moment when all that has happened has gone on. It makes it a challenging time.
“I am grateful that I was able to block it out enough to stand up and win tonight. I hope this is a learning point for everybody, and I hope nobody else has to go through what I have gone through.”
His words, and his experience are an important reminder—while many of us are now conditioned to expect nothing more from tabloids that publicise salacious and unfounded claims, Chalmers, McKeon and Simpson are proof that there are real people, and real implications behind them.