Kyle Chalmers reveals shock secret as Emily Seebohm's inspirational Olympic quest falls short

There was more drama at the Australian Olympic swimming trials on Thursday night.

Kyle Chalmers has revealed he suffered a flare-up of a debilitating back injury and needed four cortisone injections to win the 100m freestyle at the Olympic swimming trials on Thursday night. On a night when Kaylee McKeown again fell agonisingly shy of another world record, and Emily Seebohm fell just short of making Aussie swimming history, Chalmers revealed that he wasn't even sure if he'd be able to swim at the selection trials in Brisbane.

The 25-year-old secured his spot at a third Olympics by winning his pet event. It came despite the fact the 2016 Olympic gold medallist suffered a back injury in the lead-up to the meet.

Emily Seebohm and Kyle Chalmers at the Olympic swimming trials.
Emily Seebohm was racing just eight months after giving birth, while Kyle Chalmers revealed a painful injury secret. Image: Getty/Instagram

Chalmers has been mixing his swim training with working as a landscape labourer on Queensland's Sunshine Coast. On Friday two weeks ago, he took a day off to rest for the trials and wasn't sure if he'd even be able to compete.

"I just spent the day laying on the couch, which my body is clearly not used to," Chalmers said. "It got pretty stiff and then the Saturday morning, I tried to do a dive and it just all spasmed and locked up.

"I saw physios and doctors and the best thing I could do was to get four cortisones in my lower back and try to get moving again. I am just grateful to be here racing and be back on the mend. I know that I can get it right in six weeks' time (for the Olympics). I have put on a pretty brave face to be able to get through but it has definitely been quite challenging."

Kyle Chalmers at the Olympic swimming trials.
Kyle Chalmers won the 100m freestyle at the Olympic swimming trials. Image: Getty

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Chalmers, who won silver in the 100m freestyle in Tokyo in 2021, is bidding to become the first Australian to win two Olympic gold medals in the blue riband event. The 25-year-old suffers bulging discs and a degenerative spine, and has now had 10 cortisone injections in his back during his career.

He had a second round of heart surgery in 2020 to correct a condition called supraventricular tachycardia (basically an irregular heart beat), and has had various injuries and mental health battles throughout his career.

"The good thing is that mentally and emotionally I'm in a very, very good spot," the 25-year-old said. "I'm able to rise above the adversity and the challenges that have been thrown at me.

"And that's only because it has happened so many times throughout my career that I have had to rise above something. So mentally it hasn't been too bad. It's more just the physical physical pain."

Earlier, McKeown once again came close but fell short of breaking another one of her world records. With 10 metres remaining in the 200m backstroke, she was under record pace.

But she touched in two minutes 03.30 seconds - just outside the world record of 2:03.14 she set in March last year. It marked the third time at the selection trials that she's come within a whisker of breaking a world record.

Emily Seebohm.
Emily Seebohm in action at the Olympic swimming trials.

And Seebohm's inspirational quest to become the first Australian swimmer to make five Olympic Games also fell short, finishing fifth in the 200m backstroke. Just eight months after giving birth to son Sampson, the 32-year-old said she hopes she's inspired mothers around the country.

"I have had mums from mums' group that have come out and watched with their bubs, which has been really exciting," the four-time Olympian said. "And mums have reached out to me on Instagram or Facebook or whatever saying how inspiring this is.

"When I was pregnant, I felt like I lost that athlete that I was. And this is me trying to regain that ... and proving to other women that it's possible to not only have kids but achieve your dreams too."

with AAP