She’s one of our most accomplished athletes. A multiple world record holder, Olympic gold medalist, and Order of Australia recipient, but for swimmer Cate Campbell, winning the 2018 Women In Sport Comeback of the Year Award, presented by Samsung, was something she never expected.
Samsung believes that all women have the power to overcome lifes challenges and get Back in The Game. Campbell personifies this message of how it is possible, after the shock results from the 2016 Rio Olympics, where she finished sixth in the final of the women's 100 metres freestyle final left Cate even considering quitting swimming. The pressure she felt the Australian press and public placed on her to win, coupled with the pressure she already put on herself collided in her taking some time off from the sport.
“In terms of swimming, at 26, I'm quite old!” she says, laughing. “I'm really pushing the senior end and am the eldest female on the Australian Swim Team. So for me this was an incredibly humbling award to win, especially when you have a look at the other amazing nominees.”
It’s the perfect icing to top off one of the toughest periods in Cate’s exceptional sporting career.
“I am incredibly proud to come back and be competitive on the world scene again after taking some time away from the sport,” she admits. “It was a little scary because it was the first time in my life that I said, ‘No, I don't think I'm willing to give 100% anymore’. But [my time off] made me fall in love with swimming again, and I'm so pleased to be back!”
In August this year, Cate achieved the second fastest 100m freestyle time in history at the Pan Pacific Games in August (an amazing 52.03 seconds!). Shortly afterwards, she published a powerful open letter calling out Australia’s obsession with winning and the pressure it puts on athletes.
It was met with resounding support from all levels of the sporting world.
“I think often we're too outcome-focused and I think I've had to take a step back and say, ‘What qualities do I value in myself and other people?’ she explains. “And for me, I value bravery. So every time I get behind swimming blocks, can I be brave? I value kindness in all my interactions; can I be kind with people? And I value honesty, and in my everyday life can I be honest and transparent?”
Cate says that particularly in today's world, where there's so many “filters” we can put on our lives that kind of honesty gets lost.
“I want make sure that in every situation, I exhibit those qualities and if I can, I can be proud of myself, no matter what the result,” she says. “Because I can't always walk away with the shiny trophy or the gold medal, however I can always walk away saying that I was brave and that I was kind and that I was honest.”
Cate’s win at the Women in Sport Awards comes on the eve of her move to Sydney to be part of the Northern Metro Hub, where she will be training with the nation’s most promising swimmers. It’s something Cate is especially looking forward to.
“When I speak to young swimmers, I'm inspired by their passion,” she says. “Sometimes I can get a little bit jaded in my old age, but to see the drive and the passion that they show and exhibit everyday inspires me. So, I hope that it can be a fulfilling cycle; I inspire them, they inspire me, and together we make the world of swimming a better (and faster) place!”