Pop star Cody Simpson has revealed while many people doubted his Olympic dream, it was the advice given by champion swimmers Michael Phelps and Grant Hackett that inspired him to return to top level swimming.
Simpson is a shock chance to feature at this year's Tokyo Games after an impressive showing at last month's Australian Open Championships. A slick time of 24.68 seconds in his heat for the 50m butterfly was enough to book himself a spot in next month's Olympic trials.
The 24-year-old, who spent over 10 years away from the sport in a career that saw him work alongside the likes of Justin Bieber, Flo Rida and appear in Nickelodeon films, has been training with former Australian Olympian Brett Hawke.
After achieving two gold medals as a youngster at the Queensland Swimming Championships back in 2009, Simpson's career as an artist took off the following year when flew to New York to meet with executives from Atlantic Records.
Simpson revealed it was during his first trip to the US where he met Phelps, the most successful Olympian of all time with a total of 28 medals, 23 of which are gold.
"I was swimming in the US with my dad on that first trip, we actually drove down to Baltimore and met Michael Phelps for the first time. I trained with [coach] Bob [Bowman's] junior group," he told the Sydney Morning Herald.
"I met Michael and made him sign 20 caps and we joke about it now. I met him the first time I went to the US but it all came about because of a different reason."
Simpson said both Phelps and Hackett never showed him any doubt when he informed them of his desire to return to swimming.
"There was never any doubt from them," he added.
"There was never a point where they said 'You're insane. What do you mean you want to train for Paris? You haven't swum in 10 years.'
"There was doubt from people that maybe can't comprehend the idea that someone can do something that's never really been done before. In my case, nobody's really done it this way. That's part of the attraction for me.
"But that's how they think. A lot of other people were 'what are you talking about?'. Phelps, Hackett, they didn't have a single question. They just said 'yes, of course, do it'. For me, that was surprising and inspiring. There was never a point where they said it was too risky or too hard. But they said give it the attention it deserves, do it the right way and give it the right time."
The pop star turned Olympic hopeful, who has nearly four million Instagram followers, said Phelps told him it would take at least four years of training to get to where he wanted to be.
"So I have the greatest swimmer of all time saying that's how long he would need. I'm going to listen," Simpson said.
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