Overcoming ‘greatest choke in Olympic history’
CATE Campbell has revealed she was stuck in a torturous limbo after the Rio Olympics, not wanting to quit the sport but knowing she could not continue if she allowed swimming to consume her life as it had before her Olympic meltdown.
On the eve of a showdown against US Olympic and world champion Simone Manuel at the Pan Pacs in Tokyo, Campbell opened up about the changes that have allowed her to relieve the pressure heading into major meets and how a strong performance this week would be a major confidence boost ahead of the 2020 Games.
Campbell's coach Simon Cusack recently revealed he feared his star sprinter would not return after Rio, where she entered the 100m a heavy favourite and faded to finish sixth.
Campbell, who described her Rio performance as "possibly the greatest choke in Olympic history" said she was torn about her future in the sport following the Games.
"I think I didn't want to give up but I also didn't want to continue, so it was almost worse," she said.
"I was stuck in this place where I didn't want to give up but I also didn't want to go back to the way things were.
"So it was that process of how can I change things enough to allow me to continue to do the sport that I love and I feel that I have more to give to, without it consuming my whole life, or feeling like I'll resent it by the time I finish."
Ironically, failing on the biggest stage in world sport turned out to be the thing that allowed Campbell to move forward without pressure, knowing she can recover.
"In a way it is really liberating to hit rock bottom because suddenly those fears are taken away, you know you are capable of so much more," she said.
"I now know I can deal with whatever comes from racing."
Changing the focus of her training has brought Campbell into her showdown with Manuel fresh, but unsure of exactly how she will perform in Tokyo.
A notoriously slow starter due in part to her long limbs, Campbell has been working on gaining explosive power in a bid to gain the fractions of a second that can make all the difference in the 100m, the event she said she had a "love-hate relationship" with.
"I have really taken the pressure off myself for the next couple of years leading into Tokyo," she said.
"I have mixed up my training, so I probably don't know what kind of form I am in, because I have taken longer breaks and tried different things at training.
"That uncertainty is something I am really looking forward to. I feel like I am not expected to swim really well because my training has been different to what it has been in the past."
Campbell will likely swim the freestyle leg of the mixed medley relay on Thursday in her first outing of the meet before the 100m on Friday and 50m on Sunday.