For the first 85 metres of the 100 metres freestyle final, Kyle Chalmers swam in invisibility togs.
No one could see him. The commentators didn’t mention him, except to write him off at the turn.
I’ve looked at the footage and I’m pretty sure he wasn’t even in the pool at that point. I reckon he was out the back kicking a footy around. Or doing his maths homework.
And then suddenly there he was, in the mix, coming home faster than you can crash the census website to steal the Golden Rough from his far more fancied contenders.
His school mates went nuts. So did his grandparents. So did we all. Except the man himself. He was pretty restrained. Laid-back way past horizontal.
“It’s unbelievable,” he said. “I mean, I’m only 18.” And that was pretty much it.
The last time Australia won gold in this event, it was in black and white, way back in 1968, before Chalmers’ parents were even born.
Since then there’s been a Trump-like wall between the Aussies and this particular gold medal, no matter how much talent we’ve thrown at it.Embed from Getty Images
Cameron McEvoy was the latest to falter, though in defeat he surpassed all expectations.
Fronting the media, McEvoy dealt briefly with his performance, then said: “But enough about me. Kyle’s come in and done another PB on top of the PB he did at the (Olympic) trials. He’s just turned 18 and he’s an Olympic champion — that’s bloody wonderful, isn’t it?”
And there was a gold medal performance right there.
In these days of global uncertainty, it’s a good idea to have a diversified portfolio. So on day five, our Aussie swimming girls made some prudent investments in silver.
Maddie Groves came within a bee’s proverbial of trading up to gold in the 200 metres butterfly, while Bronte Barratt, Emma McKeon, Jess Ashwood and Tamsin Cook hung on for silver in the 4×200 metres relay after being mowed down by American Katie Ledecky on her way to her third Rio gold.Embed from Getty Images
Overnight, Karsten Fosterling, Alexander Belonogoff, Cameron Girdlestone and James McRae bagged another silver in the men’s quad sculls and a big hug from Aussie rowing legend James Tomkins as he gave them their medals.
Jess Fox came away with bronze in the women’s slalom, bumped out of gold and silver by a controversial two-second penalty and surging Spaniard Maialen Chourraut.
Our rugby sevens lads were taken out of the tournament by South Africa in the quarter finals but the good news is that New Zealand didn’t make it through either.
A fairytale finish in that tournament with Fiji winning its first ever Olympic medal – and it just happens to be gold.
In basketball, the Boomers gave the US the fright of their lives and were disappointed not to convert a five-point half-time lead into full-time victory.
Andrew Bogut was then tackled by a very enthusiastic Seven reporter with a voice that could strip paint. You’ve been warned.
And in a display of sheer guts, our Aussie women’s team pursuit team broke the Olympic record two days after a massive stack that still has Melissa Hoskins limping around on crutches. They’ve qualified third.
Blub of the day
I’m giving it to Kyle Chalmers’ grandparents today. Grandma pulled off a lovely little nanna blub, while Pops executed the almost impossible delayed reaction blub.
Watch as he leaps out of his chair, cheers and gives the missus a peck on the lips before the emotion gets him.
Living up to its title as the Austerity Games, they’ve just cut off the free coffee in the main media centre due to ‘technical issues’. The journalists are not amused.
And here’s a good reason not to lift weights.
That’s the spirit
In Sydney we had Eric the Eel, in Rio it’s a bloke called, somewhat unflatteringly, Robel the Whale. And it’s not for his speed in the water.
Ethiopia’s Robel Kiros Habte completed the 100 metres freestyle in a smidge under 1:05 minutes to finish 59th in a field of 59 and about 17 seconds off Kyle Chalmers’ winning pace.
“I wanted to do something different for my country, that’s why I chose swimming,” he said. “Everybody, every day you wake up in Ethiopia, you run. Not swimming. But I didn’t want to run, I wanted to be a swimmer.”
While Robel is a hit in Rio, back home the reception has not been so positive. Robel, it turns out, is the son of the Ethiopian swimming president.