Headed into the 2016 Olympic Games, Australian sprint star Cate Campbell was widely regarded as the gold medal favorite in both the women’s individual 50m and 100m freestyle events. The swimmer fired off a remarkable 51.97 split to help carry her Aussie squad to gold in the women’s 4×100 freestyle relay to kick-off her Rio campaign, but, individually, Campbell faltered.
After having set a world record of 52.06 just weeks before the Rio opening ceremony, Campbell wound up more than a second slower in the individual 100m freestyle event at the Games. As such, Campbell had to settle with finishing 6th in the 100 (53.24) and 5th in the 50 free (24.15). Aussie Head Coach Jacco Verhaeren commented post-race that the disappointing outcomes “can really only put it to nerves and nothing else.”
However, now over two months removed from the Rio ordeal, Campbell’s coach, Simon Cusack, is pointing to another factor as having impacted his protegé’s lackluster outing. In order to minimize pressure on athletes headed into a Games, Cusack tells The Australian that “no key swimmer should hold leadership roles in the team in the two years going into the Olympics.”
“There’s a lot of things that compounded the pressure on her in Rio (Campbell also carried a hernia into the Games) and when it unraveled, it unraveled in a big way. By nature, Cate is a pleaser. She wants to please people, and watching her, it became a chore for her being a spokesperson. When she stood up behind the blocks in Rio, her biggest fear was letting people down who she cares about.’’
Cusack will be meeting with Verhaeren in the coming weeks to further evaluate the squad’s performance. The Commercial coach says that the weeks since Rio have been ‘pretty traumatic’ for his swimmer, which has included Cusack offering guidance to Campbell on finding more of a ‘balance in her life’ moving forward.
“She has tended to become a bit too unbalanced and swimming-focused, so I encouraged her to go skydiving when she was in New Zealand (on holidays), and to find more joy in her life.’’
However, Campbell announced mid-August that she plans on continuing to pursue a 4th Olympic Games. She says she ‘can’t leave her Olympic campaign like this.’
“I want to leave with happy tears. You’re going to have to lock me in for 2020.”