Miley’s Aussie ex playing the long game
Cody Simpson isn't looking for a quick sugar fix.
The Australian singer-songwriter, who dated pop star Miley Cyrus for almost 12 months before the high-profile couple split earlier this year, took everyone by surprise during the week by swimming fast enough to qualify for next year's Australian Olympic trials.
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Few people knew Simpson had started swimming seriously again but the 23-year-old decided during the year to return to his childhood love.
A state champion as a teenager, Simpson recently completed the 100m butterfly in 54.9 seconds, comfortably easing past the qualifying benchmark time of 56.87.
It means he can compete with Australia's top talent for a spot on the team that will head to Tokyo for the delayed 2021 Olympics.
While some might think a crack at next year's Games is Simpson's primary motivation for pulling on the Speedos again, they'd be wrong. The Aussie's coach Brett Hawke said the pair are actually working to a four-year plan and have their sights set another Olympic cycle down the track.
"Our goal is to be as fast as we can possibly be this year and just keep building on that," Hawke told former Australian cricketer Shane Lee and sports presenter Tim Gilbert on Afternoon Sport.
"He's looking at this as a four-year plan, he's committed to four years.
"He had a conversation with (Olympic legend) Michael Phelps who told him, 'You can't do anything in under four years, you've got to commit to that' so he said, 'OK, I'll agree to that, I'll give it four years'.
"He's looking from the age of 23-27 here and that's prime athletic age for anybody.
"I think that's the best chance he'll have, to make an Olympic team four years from now.
"We're not putting any limits on where we're going with this, but at the same time we're not telling people, 'This is the goal'.
"We want to get better every day and see where it takes us."
Not even Hawke could have predicted Simpson would progress this far in the five months they've been working together. They first got in touch when Hawke wanted Simpson as a guest on his podcast, but the musician wasn't interested - instead, he wanted a coach.
"I said, 'Stick to what you're best at mate, it's not worth it'," Hawke said when hearing about Simpson's ambition. But pretty quickly he was eating humble pie, and now everyone's getting behind Miley's ex.
Even Ian Thorpe has texted Hawke to check in on Simpson's progress and show his support.
"At the age of 23 it was slipping away from him if he was ever going to attempt it so he thought, 'I'll give it a crack now before I get too old here and have regrets'," Hawke told Afternoon Sport.
"That's the thing with him, he just doesn't want to look back on his life and have regrets on things that he should have done or should have tried.
"He has the same fears as all of us, he has the same doubts. He's not superhuman, but he doesn't let those fears and doubts get in the way of his hopes and dreams."
Until last week, Simpson had been unable to compete in any swimming meets because of COVID-19 restrictions. He's been training in a country club pool in Los Angeles without flags (to check your mark in backstroke), lane lines or blocks to dive off.
But a different training environment to what most swimmers are used to hasn't hampered his performance.
Both Hawke and Simpson wanted to keep their progress on the down-low, ensuring the return to the pool stayed out of the public spotlight.
Expectations were low heading into last week's meet. In fact, Simpson didn't even know what time was needed to meet the standard for Australia's Olympic qualification trials.
Hawke admitted he was blown away by his pupil's effort, never expecting him to swim a 54.9 and certainly not expecting him to blitz the qualifying benchmark.
But if there's one thing that Hawke has learned in the past five months, it's not to underestimate Simpson.
"He's 23-years-old, if you look at his life story and the things that he's done in his life, you would think that most 30-year-olds would be really happy with it," Hawke said. "Certainly you would think it would take a 40 or 45-year-old to get the stuff done that's he's done in 23 years.
"When he puts his mind to something he just gets it done.
"When it comes to pushing limits, he's used to that in his life - he's done some remarkable things."
Originally published as Miley's Aussie ex playing the long game