Since his tenure as one of Australia’s greatest Olympians, winning medal after medal in the pool from a tender age, Michael Klim has been a very busy boy. His skincare range Milk & Co, which was launched nearly 10 years ago recently underwent a rebranding as Klim (for his men’s range), and he’s recently taken on the role of fitness, wellness and lifestyle coach for Chosen Experiences. He’s also a fan of Man of Many, so given his excellent taste in men’s lifestyle publications, we thought it was about time we sat down and had a chat with the champion.
“I fell into skincare by accident really” he happily confesses when asked about how he went from the pool to the boardroom. “I was approached by a couple of brands, to become an ambassador – I didn’t actually go with any of those, but I thought: ‘there may be something in this’. The skincare market at the time was definitely growing and there was a big opportunity – close to 40% at the time.
“So I fell into that by accident obviously having swam in chlorinated pools and swimming outdoors. The climate is obviously very, very harsh – we had to always look out for our skin. So I had that incidental insight into skincare and grooming.
“And also I have a lot of exposed skin” he laughs and points to his famously recognisable bald head, which he’s kept shaved since he was in his teens, swimming for Australia in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
While the choice to release his own range of skincare might have been a natural and logical progression for Klim, he hasn’t stopped there in the way of helping people stay fit, healthy and active. His recent partnership with wellness program Chosen is another example of how he’s working with the community to encourage a more holistic approach to wellbeing.
Talking about Chosen, he says: “It’s a great week where you get experts and contributors that come down; whether it’s CrossFit or swimming, or if it’s dietitians, or chefs, or mindfulness and yoga experts. All these guys are involved for the whole week, so you get that full interaction with them – not only is it knowledge creation, but you get this full service, and it’s a really kind of high-end experience as well, which adds to the week.
“With week-long retreats, there’s a lot of fitness based ones, but as far as this one goes it’s a little bit luxury. And also we put people outside of their comfort zone; make them feel a bit more vulnerable, so it can be a challenge physically and mentally. So then these bonds can be created and there’s a bit of natural networking that happens, as well.”
While Michael Klim’s days out of the pool might be just as busy as ever, with his time split as equally between his family and work (his three kids Stella, Frankie and Rocco are undeniably his proudest achievement to date) as it is between Australia and Bali, many will remember him as an iconic champion from a time when sport in Australia was more exciting than ever. When quizzed on his 1996 Olympics debut in Atlanta, where he had his first taste of podium success, winning bronze in the men’s 4x100m medley relay, he gladly opens up about what made that time so special.
“I know the Wallabies aren’t winning anymore, but the Cricketers have been hot and cold as well. So, definitely, the landscape in our sport has changed, there’s no doubt” he laughs. “In swimming, I know we were very lucky that we had a squad with Grant Hackett, Ian Thorpe, Kieren Perkins, Susie O’Neill, Libby Trickett, Liesel Jones – just to name a few people. All these guys – they’re either world champions or world record holders. So, we had this majority of the squad; this successful team, that are all super talented, super driven. We didn’t have a team captain, it just kept breeding success. So, I think there’s probably not as many of those so-called “freaks” in the sport, and that’s cyclical – they’ll come again at some point.
“But also the landscape in sport I think has become a lot more competitive. There’s a lot more money involved in sport. It’s definitely the case in swimming. Eastern European Bloc countries invested a lot into the program’s facilities. Another perfect example is the Great Britain team for the London Olympics – how much they dumped into their sport and the results they got. And even in the last Olympics, Rio, that was more beneficial in terms of gold medals for them than London was. And also from the corporate involvement, there’s little bit more hesitation from corporates to jump on athletes like they used to – everyone wanted to have an ambassador, or an athlete that was going to be competing at the Sydney Olympic Games. They wanted to be somehow involved. And I think now there’s a lot more risk as well, because of social media, and bringing your brand into disrepute – these sort of things.
“The landscape has changed through the way brands advertise, and the landscape of sports. But I think we’ve still got some great talent in the pool. There’s good things to come. I can talk on behalf swimming, where there wasn’t really any prime-time TV support, and all of a sudden channel nine would televise every competition we had. People really kind of got to know us intimately. Now channel seven is back on board, so it’s good – people are starting to get to know the swimmers again.”
When it comes to how it all began, Klim is no stranger to jet-setting about, and perhaps had an internationally-honed edge over his competition long before he hit the water.
“I was 11 when I came to Australia. I travelled a lot through my childhood. I spent five years in India with my family, and Canada, Germany, and Poland. So, yeah we had a pretty transient sort of childhood. I speak a little bit of German, Polish at home. I think the fact that I travelled so much and through sport it gives me a little advantage – I think I’m pretty adaptable to a lot of the situations. In the business world as well, absolutely.”
There’s little denying that Michael Klim will remain a household name for quite some time, for his efforts in the pool all those years ago, but his motivation and ability to keep moving on to fresh and exciting projects after all this time is just as much cause for celebration, and proof that life doesn’t end when it’s time to stop competing; it only gets better.