The stage is set for an epic 100m freestyle final at the world swimming titles in South Korea after a revitalised Kyle Chalmers threw down the gauntlet to defending champion Caeleb Dressel.
Olympic champion Chalmers of Australia overcame a slow heat session – and his personal demons – to be second fastest qualifier for Thursday night’s 100m freestyle final at Gwangju.
Chalmers clocked 47.58 seconds – just 0.23 of a second behind top qualifier Dressel of the United States.
And in what Chalmers hopes is an omen, it was the same time that won the Australian a shock 2016 Olympic gold.
Hype has been building for the Chalmers-Dressel clash at the titles but it looked like it may turn out to be a fizzer.
Chalmers admitted he feared he may crash out in the 100m semi-finals after a disappointing 200m freestyle campaign in South Korea, failing to qualify for the final.
He was a lowly 10th fastest for the semi-final in 48.66.
But he finally sounded his intentions when he shaved more than a second off that to clock 47.58 to ensure Dressel will be looking over his shoulder in the final.
“Swimming is a huge mental challenge. I thought I prepared myself pretty well for this morning and didn’t have the best swim,” Chalmers said.
“You probably start to doubt yourself a little bit. I think I probably let that 200m affect me a little bit.
“I got stressed out a little bit. Tonight, I came out and gave it my all and that gives me confidence going into tomorrow.”
Chalmers was in no mood to speak with media after his underwhelming heat session dominated by Dressel who topped the timesheets with a scorching 47.32 – the year’s fastest time.
But he was more than happy to chat after regaining his mojo with the impressive semi-final hit-out.
“I think it’s the exact same time I went in Rio to win,” Chalmers said of his semi-final time.
“I know I can swim fast in this pool. It’s about getting a good rest tonight and putting it together in the final.”