Seebohm’s Gold Symbolizes Personal Triumph Over Adversities


Just when it looked as though the nation of Australia could possibly end its aquatic campaign in Budapest without a single gold medal to its credit, reigning world champion Emily Seebohm came to the rescue. After collecting a bronze in the 100 backstroke and clocking a new Commonwealth Record in the 50m back for 4th place already at this meet, Seebohm saved her best for last and crushed a monster time of 2:05.68 to win the 200m backstroke.

For 25-year-old Seebohm, her gritty performance was not only a victory for Australia, but it was also a personal triumph for the national team mainstay who’s had a difficult year. After cruising to the 100m and 200m backstroke titles at 2015 World Championships in Kazan, Seebohm went on an absolute tear across the 2015/16 World Cup season.

By the time Rio rolled around, however, it was clear to the Brisbane Grammar swimmer that something wasn’t right, as she felt tired, crampy and sluggish. Finishing a disappointing 12th in the 200m back and off the podium in the 100m at the 2016 Olympics, Seebohm waited until after the Games to announced she had been suffering from symptoms of and ultimately was diagnosed with endometriosis. She eventually had surgery in December 2016 but refused to blame her lackluster performance in Rio on her health problems.

Giving swim fans perhaps the most emotional performance of her career, Seebohm couldn’t hide her satisfaction in knowing she persevered and never gave up in the race.

“Honestly, I’m pretty relieved,” Seebohm said as she choked back tears.

“I’m just really honoured and proud, such a fast field tonight and I was going to be proud of myself whether I won or I came last because getting back into the pool after Rio was really hard.

“Everything I’ve gone through it just proves to myself that it wasn’t me, that Rio was just one of those things that happens in life and sometimes you’ve got to go down, to get back up.

“I guess for me it was really hard after Rio, I knew there was a lot going on in my body and I really pushed through in Rio,” Seebohm said.

“After the surgery (for endometriosis) I got my wisdom teeth out in January, and then I had to rush back into the water and train really hard for this and I’m just amazed at what I have achieved tonight.

“I think what I did last year helped a lot, I was very mentally and physically tough last year even though I was struggling a lot it definitely helped me coming into this year, feeling better inside myself, feeling better inside my head and to come into this year and just absolutely enjoy every moment that I’ve had it’s just been a fantastic meet.”

In many ways, Seebohm’s race strategy tonight in Budapest was representative of her personal journey, maintaining her composure through the 150m mark and charging to the finish with pure guts and fueled by the sheer will to win.

Said Seebohm after the race regarding her strategy, “I knew that Kathleen Baker was going to take it out pretty hard, because that’s her style.

“I know that people have seen me race the 200 backstroke like this many times before so for them, I think it was about trying to take it out hard because they think that will hurt me more in the back-end.

“But it is all about focusing on your own race and you don’t get carried away with focusing on what people are doing around you, because at the end of the day, the perfect race plan for yourself works best and I stuck to what I know and what I’m good at and it worked out really well for me tonight.”

Even young 16-year-old Taylor McKeown, who earned a new World Junior Record in the event representing Australia, was in awe of her teammate’s electric performance.

“I think I was more happy with her swim than mine to be honest, it was good to see her get out there and claim the world title again.”

Australia Medal Table Through Day 7:


7 AustraliaAustralia 1 5 2 8

Oceanic Records Through Day 7:

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4 years ago

Great article on a true champion!

Steve Nolan
4 years ago

Hard to find someone easier to root for at this meet than Seebohm. Awesome story, congratulations to her.

4 years ago

She’s been through so much, and it’s awesome to see her back on top. She had her dreams crushed in London, came back stronger than ever after, won 2015 Worlds, then had everything come crashing down with her health just in time for Rio. Now she’s back on top. Clearly the toughest swimmer in the Australian program, mentally and physically, and a source of inspiration for her teammates.

Reply to  aquajosh
4 years ago

Her boyfriend needs to be inspired and to toughen up.

Peter L
4 years ago

Had geniuine tears in my eyes when I saw that swim. Hard to believe she’s been on the team for 10 years now.

4 years ago

She had double surgery and didn’t start training until January. What’s Joseph Schooling’s excuse?

Reply to  CraigH
4 years ago

I’m sorry.. I can’t hear you over the ka-ching sounds my million dollars make!

Reply to  SchoolingFTW
4 years ago

That moment when you cheer for a swimmer not from your country for years – and then one of their fans turns you off them…

4 years ago

no doubt the best story of these worlds

Tom from Chicago
4 years ago

Good personal redemption for Seebohm. She had been ranked #1 in the world for many years, but failed to win at last 2 Olympics. It was moving watching her press conference in London. Now she gets to be hero, good on her.

4 years ago

Awesome work Em!

About Retta Race

Retta Race

Swim analyst, businesswoman.

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