Is Cody Simpson competing at Paris Olympics? Sad twist for swim star girlfriend Emma McKeon

The singer-turned-swimmer fell agonisingly short of qualifying for the Aussie swimming team.

Cody Simpson and Emma McKeon had been hoping to compete at the Paris Olympics together, in what would have been a dream come true for the Aussie swimming couple. But McKeon will be going it alone after Simpson fell agonisingly short of qualifying.

Simpson finished fifth in the men's 100m butterfly final at the Australian Olympic swimming trials last month, which wasn't enough to stamp his ticket to Paris. The former pop star won his butterfly heat in a time of 51.78 to qualify fifth-fastest into the final, with Matt Temple (51.46) the top qualifier.

Simpson's time was slightly slower than his personal best of 51.67, with the singer-turned-swimmer needing a PB in the final to make the Olympics. All eyes were on him in the final and he was right in the hunt as he turned at the halfway mark.

But as his fellow Aussie swimmers made their final push, Simpson couldn't match Temple and co as he finished fifth in 51.79 - just outside his personal best of 51.67 and 0.01 slower than his heats swim. National record holder Temple won the race in 51.15 ahead of Ben Armbruster, while Shaun Champion (51.40) was third and Jesse Coleman (51.51) was fourth.

Cody Simpson and Emma McKeon.
Cody Simpson failed to qualify for the Olympics alongside girlfriend Emma McKeon. Image: Getty/Instagram

Falling short in the 100m butterfly makes what transpired earlier in the meet all the more cruel. After failing to reach the final of the 100m freestyle, Simpson won the 'B final' in a personal best time of 48.67 - which would have seen him finish sixth in the 'A final'.

The six fastest swimmers made the Olympics squad because they will be used as part of the 4x100m relay team, meaning Simpson would have given himself a serious chance of going to the Games if he'd produced his PB when it counted. But it wasn't to be and despite falling painfully short in both events, Simpson said he can end his swimming journey knowing he gave it "a real good go".

“It’s bittersweet. I did what I could do,” Simpson later told reporters. “I’ve come a lot further in the last four years than I perhaps could have bargained for. “(I) started from zero and tried to see how far I could get with a half or a third of the time everybody else has been training...just to do right by that kid in me who gave it up to go and pursue something else, which I had an incredible journey in. (I) wanted to come in these last four years and have a real good go.

“To have had the chance to swim for my country and make Australian teams, medal internationally and be a part of the men’s relay and swim for Australia is something not a lot of swimmers get to achieve or experience. I have had the privilege to do that. That’s something I’ll never forget and nobody will be able to take from me. I feel really proud to see how far I could go and satisfy the fire that was inside me and compete again and push myself in training.”

Cody Simpson, pictured here after competing in the men's 100m butterfly final during the Australian Swimming Trials.
Cody Simpson reacts after competing in the men's 100m butterfly final during the Australian Swimming Trials.

Simpson hinted that he would hang up his goggles if his Olympic bid fell short and go back to pursuing his music career. And the pop sensation said he is excited by the projects he has in the works.

"It’s helped me grow so much,” he said. "I can’t wait to take that back into music and entertainment and see what I can do. I’ve got some exciting projects lined up after this.

“Finishing with a PB in the 100m freestyle, albeit swum in the wrong race, I’m pretty stoked I’ve been able to come this far and swim as fast I have. If you’d have told me four years ago I’d be going 51 and 48 in the 100m freestyle, it’s pretty cool."

Cody Simpson in the pool.
Simpson couldn't match Temple and co in the 100m butterfly final as he finished fifth in 51.79 - just outside his personal best of 51.67 and 0.01 slower than his heats swim.

Simpson found fame at a young age as a music star but put his singing career on hold in 2019 to chase his dream of qualifying for the 2024 Olympics. And while the swimmer has surpassed what many thought was possible, claiming relay gold and silver medals at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, qualifying for the Games was just too big of a leap.

In an ideal world, Simpson would be competing in Paris with his partner McKeon, after she became the first woman to qualify for the Aussie swim team aged in their 30s since Lisa Curry in 1992. Already Australia’s greatest Olympian with a record 11 medals, McKeon is now the oldest woman to make the Olympic swimming team in over three decades, sizzling in the 100m butterfly final, finishing first in a time of 56.85 to book her ticket to Paris.

McKeon said ahead of the trials that this will be her final Games as she has no desire to continue her career through to the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics. Her partner, Simpson, has gone back and forth on whether or not he will continue to chase swim glory after this year's Games. But failing to qualify for Paris has shattered the dream of the pair going out on top together.

In an interview with News Corp in April, the musician-turned-swimmer said he hoped Paris could be a "fairytale ending" to his swimming journey. and also revealed that his next steps with McKeon will be decided after the Games. "I’ve purposefully put a brick wall on either side of it, in that I will address it when it comes,” he said.

"But never once in my life have I not known what is next. Emma has never had a life without swimming. I know what it is like, but she has never had it, so I’m excited for her to explore her other interests and have the time to do that because she has never had it as a kid."

Cody Simpson speaks with coach Michael Bohl.
Cody Simpson's coach Michael Bohl believes qualifying for the Olympics is likely a step too far from the pop star turned swimmer.

Simpson's mother Angie and father Brad both swam for Australia at the 1987 Pan-Pacific Games and 1994 Commonwealth Games respectively. Simpson was always a promising junior swimmer himself and in 2009 at age 12, he won two gold medals at the Queensland state championships. The same year, the singer-guitarist posted songs on YouTube and was discovered by an American music manager.

His family then uprooted their lives to move to Los Angeles the following year and Simpson became a worldwide pop star. He also appeared on Broadway and on numerous American television shows.

But in 2020 he put his singing and acting career on hold to return to the pool with the aim of representing his country. "Seems like yesterday it was 2020, getting back in the water raw and wildly unfit having not swum or competed since I was a little boy," the 27-year-old wrote in a post to Instagram. "To look back on how this whole thing has progressed is beyond me. I’ve given everything I have morning and night in training to see what I can get out of myself; burnt every boat I could burn in the pursuit.

"The physical and mental expansion that swimming has now brought me is huge. Along with all the dreams achieved in swimming for Australia. I’ve laid it all out there in these final 6 months and I’m very, very excited to race this week and just see what I can do. Thanks to all who have supported me on my ride. I do all of this for the 12-year-old kid in me. He’d be so stoked to know everything that’s happened. Guess he does ‘cause he’s me! See you on the other side!"

Simpson made Australia's team for the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham where he won a gold medal as a heat swimmer in Australia's triumphant 4x100m freestyle relay. He also placed fifth in the 100m butterfly final and reached the semis in the 50m butterfly. And Bohl says those results are far beyond what he set out to accomplish and therefore when he begins his next stage of life, he can be satisfied that he has given his all to his swimming career.

"What he did making the Commonwealth Games team is what he set out to achieve, he wanted to make an Australian team," Bohl said. "Not that he doesn't want to make this (Olympic) one, he desperately wants to make this.

"But making the Australian (Commonwealth Games) team was a win for him. Being out of the sport for a long number of years and coming back and getting in is just a testament to his willpower and his discipline, his determination."

with AAP