Surprise winners in the pool: Kyle Chalmers

In a golden state after Durant video

Australian Kyle Chalmers celebrating after winning the 100m freestyle ahead of more illustrious rivals such as defending champion Nathan Adrian and countryman Cameron McEvoy.
Australian Kyle Chalmers celebrating after winning the 100m freestyle ahead of more illustrious rivals such as defending champion Nathan Adrian and countryman Cameron McEvoy.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

RIO DE JANEIRO • Australia's teenage Olympic champion Kyle Chalmers said he was bowled over by a video from National Basketball Association player Kevin Durant and a letter of support from Ian Thorpe before his sensational victory in the 100 metres freestyle on Wednesday.

The 18-year-old was seventh at the 50m mark but mounted a stunning final-length swim to snatch gold in swimming's blue-riband event.

He set a junior world record of 47.58 seconds, ahead of Belgian Pieter Timmers' 47.80, with 2012 gold medallist Nathan Adrian of the United States third in 47.85.

He became the first Australian champion in the race since Mike Wenden in 1968.

After his victory, the basketball fan revealed an accidental encounter with Durant in Rio de Janeiro led to him receiving a personal video of support from the Golden State Warriors player.

"Last night, I was walking over to my semi-final and Kevin Durant walked in front of me and to be honest with you, I almost vomited," Chalmers said. "My jaw dropped and I was that excited and nervous about it. It was just amazing for me."

He said that before every race, he watches Durant's Most Valuable Player speech and another video montage of the NBA star's playing highlights, which has a "pretty cool song" in the background.

"Gary, our team manager, actually grabbed him last night and got a video of him saying he watched me swim and good luck, and stuff like that, which was really exciting," said Chalmers.

"They actually had to show it to me this morning because they knew I wouldn't be able to focus the night before my race.

"It was amazing for someone like that to congratulate me and wish me luck. I'm very happy."

Chalmers' victory made him Australia's youngest Olympic swimming champion since Thorpe won gold at the Sydney Games aged 17.

In Australia, he has been compared to the "Thorpedo", who won five golds and a total of nine Olympic medals during an illustrious career.

Chalmers said Thorpe penned him a letter of support with sage advice on the eve of his final.

"He is someone who I've looked up to my whole life," said the teenager. "(He) gave me some advice leading into tonight to 'just take in every second of tonight and enjoy the moment', so that's definitely what I did."

Chalmers, the son of former Australian Rules player Brett, had until recently harboured a dream of following his father into the indigenous football code, but was forced to choose between the sports last year when injuries piled up.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 12, 2016, with the headline 'In a golden state after Durant video'. Print Edition | Subscribe