27-year old Australian Cate Campbell, one of the fastest female sprinters in the history of the sport, told Australia’s Daily Telegraph on Saturday that she will race on to the Paris 2024 Olympics if the 2020 Games are cancelled.
Campbell is still in full training for Tokyo in spite of the global shutdown
“In my head I think that’s something that I’d really like to do,” she said. “Going to one Olympics is a pretty big achievement but the fact that I’m now looking at going to four is something that I’m incredibly proud of.
“It’s something that only one other Australian swimmer has done, in Leisel Jones, so I’d kind of like to achieve that, even if that meant deferring that for four years.”
This is Campbell’s first major statement discussing retirement since the 2016 Olympic Games, where she originally deferred a post-Commonwealth-Games retirement plan to Tokyo after disappointment over her Olympic results.
Campbell says that if the Games are postponed by a year, she will take an immediate break to “freshen her body” and then reset her target for 2021.
“At the moment the Olympics is still on and that’s still the end goal so if you encounter a roadblock or a speed bump or an obstacle you just think ‘OK, what’s my next step to get to that end goal,'” Campbell said.
“Sometimes you have to step sideways, sometimes you have to step backwards but you still have that one direction and that one focus, which is part of the athlete mentality and the athlete psyche.
“Athletes are actually really well equipped to deal with problems like this because just about everyone’s encountered a few in their professional careers.
“I’ve been doing this a really long time. Things might have thrown me before but if you’re in an environment that doesn’t panic and looks for creative answers and solutions instead of balking at them that kind of runs off you as well.”
Campbell did not explicitly join a chorus of international swimmers definitively calling for a postponement of the Games, but focused on adapting to the future whatever it holds for her. She will be 32 by the scheduled start of the Paris Games in 2024.
“I am getting older in life and at some point I need to consider what life looks like outside of the swimming pool,” she said.
“That’s a very difficult thing to do while you’re a full-time swimmer and a full time athlete, so, hypothetically, I would try and figure that out and once I got a little bit of a handle on that I’d come back and try to train for it.”
Campbell has spent over a decade at the top of the sport of swimming, including breaking the Australian Record in the lead-up to the Olympic Games in 2008 at just 15 years old.
She is the owner of 5 Olympic medals, with 1 of those being an individual 50 free bronze from her first Games in 2008. In 2016, even though she broke the World Record in the 100 free just a month before the Olympic Games, she missed the podium, blaming her medal miss on a number of things ranging from nerves and too much pressure from leadership positions to the belief that she had been disqualified in the final for a false start.