Cate Campbell On Women's Health's Women In Sport Cover

Cate Campbell On How “Choking” At Rio Has Changed Her Perception Of Success

by | Aug 27, 2020

Cate Campbell walks into our photoshoot studio (all 186cm of her – 135cm of that is leg) with a bestselling book poking out of her backpack: The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by self-help guru Mark Manson.

“I’m about 100 pages in,” the 27-year-old elite swimmer says. “I love figuring out how the brain works. I’ve done a lot of personal reflection and I listen to psychology podcasts. It enforces the idea that it’s not about what you have. It’s about what you do and how, and the people we do it with. That makes a happy lifestyle.”

This deep thinking has served Cate well over the past few years. The three-time Olympian stepped away from competitive swimming after the 2016 Games in Rio, where her performance didn’t live up to public, media and her own expectations. In Cate’s words, she “choked” under pressure. The break was needed for both her mind and body. A 2017 comeback – complete with renewed passion – saw her score three golds and a silver at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, then five golds and a PB in the 100m freestyle at the Pan Pacific Championships. She also took out Comeback of the Year and Sportswoman of the Year at the 2018 Women’s Health Women in Sport Awards.

“Physically, [the time out] allowed me to heal,” Cate says. “All athletes carry injuries … and I hadn’t ever given my body time to fully rest and recover. Physically I’m now in a much better place than I was even before 2016. That’s really helped my mental state as well. The time also allowed me to see that I was good at things outside the pool. I’ve been a swimmer since I was 16 … so much of my identity was tied up in swimming. So it was really nice to take a step back and find out I still have friends who like to hang out with me when I have dry hair and am not in swimmers!”

For more of our chat with Cate Campbell – and our celebration of women in sport – pick up the November issue of Women’s Health.

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