The pop star could wrap up a spot on his first national team in the 100 metres butterfly on Wednesday night, although he’ll face stiff competition from the likes of Kyle Chalmers, Matt Temple and David Morgan.
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Hackett, who will cover the selection trials for Amazon Prime Video, says Simpson is in good shape heading to Adelaide.
“He’s tracking incredibly well,” he told Wide World of Sports.
“I actually spoke to Cody about 2-3 weeks ago, and he’s had a few ups and downs. He had an issue with his shoulder which meant having a bit of a rest, but that meant he could work on his legs a bit more.
“It was a good opportunity to work on other things, which shows he’s really got his head screwed on in terms of his approach to improving.”
Despite the setback with his shoulder, Hackett noted Simpson is a far more accomplished swimmer than when he competed at the national titles last year.
“It was probably the first real test he’s had over the last couple of years, where things aren’t going right, as opposed to when you feel good and everything falls into place.
“After that, he actually turned around and now he’s swimming faster times than he did at trials last year, when he’s in full work.
“His 50 fly looks good, his 100 fly looks good, even his 100 freestyle, he keeps posting 50.0 even though he’s not tapered or shaved.”
The national championships doubles as the selection trials for both the world championships in June and the Commonwealth Games in July.
The top two in each event will earn a spot on the team for the world titles in Budapest, while the top three will make the trip to Birmingham.
According to Hackett, the extra spot available on the Commonwealth Games team is Simpson’s best chance.
“I think that is the most realistic opportunity for him this year,” he explained.
“Look, that is still going to be a stretch, but in saying that, it’s not unrealistic, given the times he’s producing.
“I always though the Olympics team last year was unrealistic, people got carried away with the hype, but I said at the time if he made the final that would be mind-blowing, and he did.
“This year, getting a medal is something that’s a much higher probability than it was 12 months ago.”
While many dismissed Simpson’s initial foray as a stunt, it ignored the fact he was a national-level swimmer as a child.
That’s why Hackett is convinced Simpson’s rivals will be taking the 25-year-old seriously.
“Cody is 100 per cent committed to the sport and the preparation it takes to get onto one of these national teams and represent Australia,” he said.
“We’re going to see a Cody Simpson that is faster and more serious than last year, and more of a contender.
“It’s now starting to get real for his competitors, that Cody is looking for medals this time around, not just finals.”
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