"Sorry, I’m not crying because I’m sad," she told the reporters at the time, as she exited the pool. "...it’s just that this is a part of my life and now it’s the end of an era for me."
An end of an era indeed, but little did she know then that it was the start of an even better one - one that saw the birth of her beautiful baby boy.
"I retired in 2016 following the Rio Olympics when I found out that I was pregnant with my first son Noah," Coutts explain to Women's Health a few days ago. "Building a family has changed my outlook on my career and entering parenthood has been a unique journey. I have no regrets taking a leap of faith knowing that I have more time for my loved ones."
Now, watching the games for the first time as a spectator, the retired athlete can finally take the time to reminisce on her legacy - and how important representation really is in sport.
"The Tokyo Olympics is the first Olympic Game I’m able to participate as a spectator since 2004. While a part of me always wish I were there in person, I’m excited to see the coverage and how our team compete. Australia has some great medal contenders over a variety of events, so I’m really looking forward to seeing how they go," she explains.
"Personally, I am glad to see more strong women striving for their dreams and showing Australia and the world what they are capable of. It is great to see women inspiring the future generations, like those who came before did for me, while receiving more recognition. My hero growing up was Australian former competitive swimmer Susie O’Neill. I always wanted to be just like her! I was fortunate to have met her as a 10-year-old, and what I admired the most was her humility - something I as an athlete always strived to be."
But like any sports journey, nothing comes easy. And while the Lovekins ambassador watches the games it reminds her of the difficult periods she had to overcome as an athlete, and how important it is for women to keep pushing for the same opportunities as their male counterparts. "My journey definitely wasn’t an easy one. I had a lot of obstacles to overcome, from injuries, illnesses to experiences in my personal life: the loss of my dad at a young age, glandular fever, two abdominal surgeries, ankle, and shoulder injuries, just to name a few," she explains. "During these difficult periods, I often felt unsure if I could get back to the competitive level I was at. It took a lot mentally and physically to push through, but I was always surrounded by good people who were there for me. My mum and my husband were both big parts in keeping me on track, and I couldn’t have achieved my goals without their love and support. "I was lucky to be in a sport that is represented by both male and female athletes. From personal experience, it is unfortunately the harsh truth that female athletes face barriers when it comes to things like sponsorship and exposure opportunities. "For those going through a similar situation, surround yourself with positive people. The power of having a support network when times get tough is insurmountable. It is true that strength and determination go a long way,but it is important to believe in yourself and stay connected with an empowering community."
As for her life now, Coutts definitely doesn't describe it as slower, but rather a different kind of commitment. "While the transition of work-life balance is a great one, being a mother and an athlete are both full-time jobs that requires a lot of care, time, and effort." Yes, she still has the urge to jump in the pool, but balancing a full-time job, pregnancy, and two little humans to care for, has been keeping her busy - but it's all worth it.
"Becoming a mum was something I have wanted for a very long time. As an athlete your sole focus is on yourself to building endurance and performance; as a mother, you devote your time to your children, making sure that they have everything that they need," explains Coutts. "When I was pregnant with my first son Noah, I felt so strongly to care for him and wanted to protect him in every possible way. I searched for baby products that were natural and toxic-free, and that’s when I came across Lovekins on Instagram and connected with Lovekins’ founder Amanda. Her dedication to her family and Lovekins reminded me of an athlete."
"I feel truly blessed that my career path and the decisions I made brought me to meeting Amanda and many other inspiring women. Being an athlete or not, it is important to me to align with individuals who share the same values. This is why I choose to become a Lovekins brand ambassador - working with a brand whose vision I truly believe in keeps me motivated in my life after sport."