Michael Klim’s emotions were swirling when he was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame earlier this month. At a ceremony in Florida, the hulking Aussie joined a club containing many of history’s most celebrated swimmers, divers and coaches, including Mark Spitz, Johnny Weissmuller and his old training partner Alex Popov.
Klim, Matthew Mitcham and Jon Sieben were Australia’s latest honorees, in the footsteps of local luminaries such as Ian Thorpe, Fanny Durack and Murray Rose. Ground-breaking coach Ursula Carlisle joined her late husband Forbes on the list, too.
But despite his glittering career and collection of medals, Klim couldn’t shake a mild dose of imposter syndrome.
“I looked out at the room and you’ve got Rowdy Gaines, Mary T Meagher, Greg Louganis, Jon Sieben ... you have these sporting legends and it almost felt like I didn’t belong there, to be honest,” Klim said. “But it was an amazing night.”
It had taken some effort to get to Fort Lauderdale but with his partner Michelle and parents Ewa and Wojtek alongside him, Klim relished the trip down memory lane. It was respite.
“There were a lot of things going through my head, and for a few hours it was nice to not have my illness on the forefront of my mind,” Klim said.
“I started to deteriorate pretty significantly, physically, this time two years ago. So I wanted to go because I don’t know what the future holds really. It is a pessimistic outlook, but it’s the truth.”
In 2020, Klim was diagnosed with a rare neurological disorder called chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy, or CIDP. The autoimmune disease sees the body attack the myelin sheaths insulating and protecting the nerves, and has no cure.