Picture by 2021 Getty Images

Cody Simpson: From star singer to Olympian? He might just make it

The Australian's transformation from global pop sensation to Olympic swimmer is within touching distance. Can Cody Simpson become one of the greatest stories at Tokyo 2020, in 2021?
By Chloe Merrell

Cody Simpson has unfinished business in the pool.

Last year, the world-famous singer ditched his glamorous lifestyle to try and make the Australian Olympic swimming team for the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.

But why has Simpson, who catapulted to fame at the age of 13 courtesy of YouTube and now boasts a combined social media following of nearly 11 million, made the transition back to sport? Can this ex-boyfriend of Miley Cyrus really be considered an Olympic prospect?

The answer will soon be revealed at the Australian Swimming Trials on June 13th.

The thrilling swimming events at the Rio Olympics played a major part in luring the now Versace model back into the water after 10 years away. But to fully understand the makings of this Hollywood-Olympic fairy tale, you first have to know Simpson's whole story, which began in Queensland, Australia.

Cody Simpson's route to Tokyo 2020 qualification will by via the 100m butterfly
Picture by 2021 Getty Images

From Down Under to down town

Born to parents who represented Australia in swimming, Simpson also enjoyed success in the pool from an early age. Aged 12 and 13, he became a National Age Group champion. But as his swimming talent was developing into something promising, so too was his other passion: music.

Soon enough, the talented youngster landed a record deal and moved to Los Angeles to be transformed into a teen heartthrob.

Simpson's entertainment career has known no bounds in its creativity. To date, he has completed three studio albums, won nine awards, performed on Broadway, and even taken part on TV shows like Dancing with the Stars and The Masked Singer.

But despite all of this success, there was something bothering him. Simpson confessed that seeing swimmers he used to easily beat compelled him to don the goggles once again.

The big reveal

When the singer-song writer announced on Instagram that he was suspending his celebrity life to pursue the rigid, solitary life of an elite swimmer, it stunned music and sports fans alike. Mostly because Simpson had never revealed that he was a former national champion.

In December last year, he coolly shared that he had qualified for Olympic trials in spectacular fashion, clocking in 54.9s in the 100m fly and smashing the 56.87s benchmark required.

His progress in the pool since then has been exponential.

Just over a month ago, the aspiring Olympian made his first open final in the 50m fly at the Australian Swimming Championships on the Gold Coast. Simpson finished ninth out of 10, which was a considerable effort considering he had only come out of quarantine on the eve of the event.

No small feat

The time Simpson must make a 100m butterfly time of 51.66s at the Australia Swimming Trials in June if he is to make it to Tokyo 2020.

The first step for the Queenslander, is hitting that qualifying mark in Adelaide next month.

But to do that, Simpson must carve off more than two seconds from his current time of 53.85s. Australia will only select swimmers who are among the top eight fastest finishers at the most recent World Championships.

Speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald, Simpson admits that there is mountain before him to climb, but one he is prepared to do all the same:

“This year? I don’t know,” he said.

"But I don’t think I’d be doing it if I didn’t think I couldn’t make it at some point. And I don’t think the people that have my back would be supporting me if they didn’t think I could make it either."

Counting in Simpson’s favour will be the knowledge that the Australian men’s team offer relatively little depth in the current 100m fly division.

Impossible means nothing to Cody Simpson

For an Australian who pursued a music career as a teenager that saw him share the stage with some of the world’s biggest stars, impossible means nothing.

Simpson’s colossal efforts in the pool over he past couple of years, and the speed of his progression, have already captured the imagination of a nation.

His story has courted the attention of streaming giant Amazon Prime Video.

Prime announced on May 18th that Simpson will feature alongside an Olympic all-star line-up in a four-part documentary series entitled Head Above Water. The programme will explore how Ian Thorpe, Kyle Chalmers, Bronte Campbell and Simpson negotiate the pressures of the pool and their intense training sessions ahead of the qualifiers and Games in June and July respectively.

Amazon are also offering to be Swimming Australia's broadcasting partner ahead of the all-important Olympic trials the spotlight, meaning Simpson's star power has given the sport a timely boost Down Under. It seems only too fitting that a star of the entertainment world's final shot at Tokyo 2020 will be available for the entire world to judge.

And if he doesn't make it this time, the 24-year-old is easily still young enough to make Paris 2024.