Cody Simpson has put the finishing touches on one of the most remarkable stories in Australian sport, completing his audacious switch from international pop star to elite athlete by blasting his way onto the national squad for this year’s FINA World Championships and the Commonwealth Games.
The 25-year-old from the Gold Coast, who toured the world as a teenager and counts Miley Cyrus, Kylie Jenner and Gigi Hadad as former flames, finished third in the 100m butterfly to secure a dream call-up to the Dolphins at the Australian Swimming Championships in Adelaide on Wednesday night.
Cody Simpson catches his breath after finishing third in the men’s 100-metre butterfly final during day one of the 2022 Australian Swimming Championships.Credit:Getty
The squads won’t be named until the end of the meet but with second-placed Kyle Chalmers not swimming at the World Championships and the Australians able to take three individual swimmers to the Commonwealth Games, Simpson should start getting measured for his first green and gold tracksuit.
Olympic finalist Matt Temple won in 51.50s, with Chalmers strong at the end to finish second in 51.67. Simpson wasn’t able to replicate the 51.79 heat swim from Wednesday morning but his time of 51.96 was bang on the FINA qualifying mark.
“It feels really good. Coming in on the touch, I just thought I’d messed it up. But to come in on the qualifying time and get on the podium at the nationals, it’s unreal. I certainly didn’t expect it to even be a possibility until 2024,” Simpson said.
“I’ve just put in the hours all year, trying to make some progress. I didn’t expect this much progress so soon.
Cody Simpson during day one of the 2022 Australian Swimming Championships at SA Aquatic & Leisure Centre.Credit:Getty
“It means everything. My mum [Angie] swam for Australia. I always wanted to swim for Australia and was side-tracked for the better part of 10 years. But she’s been with me ever since I decided to come back.”
Simpson had some high-profile mentors to help along the way, with swimming legends Michael Phelps, Grant Hackett and Ian Thorpe all in his corner to offer advice. This was Simpson proving them right after they told him to make his dream a reality, no matter how far-fetched it seemed given he had spent a decade away from the competition.
“I was never greeted with any doubt from any of those guys. They said they thought I could do it. That gave me the air under my wings.”
Simpson was a talented junior swimmer and his early coaches had little doubt he was good enough to compete at the very highest level. But once he was discovered singing and playing his guitar on YouTube, he was swept up in a musical journey that saw him move to LA when he was 13 and release a top 10 Billboard album.
That blossomed into a hectic touring schedule, a celebrity lifestyle, fashion and modelling contracts and even a role in a Broadway musical.
Yet his love for the water never left and it was in the stands at the Rio Olympic Games in 2016 that he realised he wanted to be back racing, not watching from afar. It took another four years for him to commit to the cause before he dipped his toe back into racing under the guidance of former Australian sprinter Brett Hawke.
He has since joined the star-studded quad of Michael Bohl on the Gold Coast and the supercoach has turbo-charged his rise up the butterfly ranks. What was always a plan to qualify for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris has now seen him surge onto the team two years ahead of schedule.
Simpson will be a powerhouse promotional tool for Swimming Australia as it rides a wave of success after the brilliant returns in the Tokyo pool. He has a Twitter following of 6.7m and another 4.4m on Instagram, as well as starring in an Amazon documentary charting his return to the sport.
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