Sport on Saturdays: Meet Cate Campbell, Olympic swimmer.

Cate Campbell







You’ve probably heard of Cate Campbell before. She’s the Australian Olympic swimmer who got some serious attention after winning not one, but two bronze medals at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

Cate went on to win a gold medal in the freestyle relay at the 2012 London Olympics, and also made headlines a couple of weeks ago after winning gold in both the 50m and 100m freestyle events at the 2013 Australian Swimming Championships – which qualified her for the 2013 World Aquatics Championships (where she won the 100m freestyle title).

Oh, and she’s only 21.

The other amazing thing about Cate? She does all her swimming right beside her 19-year-old sister, Bronte Campbell. At the 2012 Olympics, the two of them swam in the same heat, finishing third and second to qualify for the semi-final. They also teamed up in the freestyle relay at the recent world championships, winning the silver medal after finishing just 0.12 seconds behind the US team.

I chatted to Cate recently about her start in swimming, her relationship with Bronte, her job at Australia Post, and what the men’s swimming team is really like…

Nat: How did you get started in swimming?

Cate: I’ve always been able to swim. My mum used to be a synchronised swimmer so she taught me and my three sisters to swim, and when we moved from Africa to Australia, I just joined the local swim club as a way to meet new people,. It was pretty hot, so we needed a sport that would keep us cool. And yeah, I’ve never left, I’ve been with the same coach for the past 10 years.


N: How did you begin getting competitive in swimming?

C: My little recipe for success is to find something that you’re good at and you enjoy, and I guess that I just kind of fell into swimming in that way – I enjoyed it and I was pretty good at it. The more I did it, the more I enjoyed it, and the better I got, therefore the more I enjoyed it – and it just went in that cycle. When I was about 15, I made the conscious decision that I wanted to try and make it to the Olympics.

Cate and her sister Bronte

My most memorable moment so far was in 2012, when me and my sister made the Olympic team together. Bronte’s two years younger than me and she’s always been with me throughout my swimming journey. When we got 1st and 2nd in the 50m freestyle, I knew that she would make the Olympic team. That’s still the highlight of my swimming career to this day.

N: So there’s no sibling rivalry at all?

C: Not when it comes to swimming. When it comes to winning Mario Cart, yes! But yeah, we’ve had to turn off the rivalry when it comes to swimming. We train together, we live together so it would make for a very awkward night around the dinner table if we got too competitive.

N: Have you found it really helpful to have a sibling along with you on the journey?

C: Absolutely. I used to get homesick and really lonely when away, but this way I can sort of take a little piece of home with me. We’ve done everything together for the longest time so she’s the closest person to me on this planet and to be able to share everything with her is really really a blessing.


N: What’s been your most challenging moment so far in your career?

 In 2010 – 2011, I got glandular fever and that caused viral fatigue, and that was really tough because I had qualified for the Commonwealth Games Team. I then had to pull out, and I wasn’t getting better and wasn’t getting better and kind of thought, is this the end? Have I reached my potential at twenty years of age? Is this all there is?

But it was really through the support of my friends, family, coach that I was able to recover and get better. Also – I’d lost a lot of weight and I had to put on ten kilos before I started to get well and get better. So I learned that you really need to eat enough, eat enough of the right nutrients, get lots of sleep, take your vitamins.

A balanced outlook on life is also really important. When I got sick, I was completely immersed in my swimming and it took me a little while to figure out how I was. Cate Campbell was swimming. There was no, sort of differentiation between the two, now swimming is what I do, not who I am, and I think that’s really important.

I now work for Australia Post three days a week. I’m in the community engagement time, so it’s a little bit of public relations, a little bit of marketing, a little bit of internal communications. It’s great to have that time away from training and mix it up a bit.

Cate and the 2012 relay team at the London Olympics

N: What does your training schedule look like?

C: We’re used to about nine sessions a week. On a typical Monday we start at about 6 in the morning so I’ll be up at 5.30 so we get to the pool a bit early, stretch and we train from 6 til 8. Then I’ll come home, maybe have a bit of a sleep if there is time, otherwise I’ll go to a physio or a massage appointment and then do a bit of housework, and then do a bit of training from 4 until 6 at night again. Then on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays I go to work in the middle of the day.


N: Why do swimmers always do training at the beginning of the day and at the end of the day?

C: I guess there are two reasons. One is so that we can work outside of training. Another is that, because we’re often using school facilities, we have to train outside of school hours. Also we often have school kids in our squads – like now we have a girl in Year 9 who trains with us – so we couldn’t really schedule a training session at 10am when she’s suppose to be in maths class, that would be a little bit unfair and her parents might have something to say about that.

N: As a sport, swimming does get more funding than a lot of other sports. Do you think that’s fair?

C: I think that a lot is expected of the swimmers and we do consistently perform at an extremely high level. But it breaks my heart to see people having to drop out of other sports due to lack of funding. I guess I’m just very lucky that I’m in a sport that is so well supported. And I’d love for all sports to be totally supported and funded but unfortunately it’s not going to happen straight away.

N: In terms of the men’s swim team – they’ve been getting a lot of bad press, what are they really like?

C: I’ve really enjoyed being a part of the swim team as a whole – girls by themselves can get a little bit too intense so it’s nice to have the guys to smooth things out. They are obviously all very focused and driven but you know, sometimes, 21 year old guys are more interested in going to the bar than the training pool. More than our differences, we have one thing in common, and that is our determination to excel in the pool – and that’s what really holds the team together.


N: What advice would you give to anyone hoping to get involved in competitive swimming?

I would say – make sure you enjoy it! Because if you don’t enjoy it, you’re not going to excel.

My younger sister swims a little bit. She’s very tall, skinny. Like me when I was her age. And she said to me, “Cate, do you think I should go to the Olympics?’ And I said, “Well, Abigail, do you want to?? And she thought about it for a second and she said, “you know what, I see you and Bronte going to the Olympics and it looks really really awesome, but I don’t think I want it that much.”

I thought – that is really really wise. She recognises where it’s got us and all the awesome accolades that come with it, and she realized that and she doesn’t want it. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. If you are not enjoying it, you need to find something else. It is hard, it is tough. You need to find something else.

And in other sports news from the week…

– The Australian Fast5 Flyers have been unveiled for the Fast5 Netball World Series in Auckland this year. Previously named the Fast5 Diamonds, the national team has rebranded to be the Flyers – a name used for female kangaroos. According to Kate Palmer, CEO of Netball Australia, the name fits well with the event: “The Fast5 tournament is three days of fast-paced action and entertainment so the nickname is perfect for this version of the game and the atmosphere at the event.” She added: “There are some similarities between our athletes and flyers: both are fast, fit and athletic and neither will take a backward step.”


The Team is: Ashleigh Brazill, Courtney Bruce, Tegan Caldwell, Carla Dziwoki, Paige Hadley, Demelza McCloud, Susan Pratley, Gabi Simpson, Gretel Tippett and Jo Weston.

– Speaking of netball – captain of the Aussie Diamonds, Laura Geitz, officially confirmed her position this week after receiving the traditional captain’s necklace from former captain Natalie von Bertouch on Thursday at the Adelaide Convention Centre. She is the fourth captain to receive the necklace.

Netball Australia also this week announced their partnership with Coles – Coles will become the official sponsor of their school program and naming rights partner for the upcoming Test series.

– The AFL has appointed their first-ever female president. American lawyer Peggy O’Neal has won the ballot to lead the Richmond board – she says that it is indicative of the Tigers having an open mind. “To be the first woman elected to this role, in the history of the competition, is deeply humbling, and I think it says much about the Richmond Football Club’s progressive attitude, broad commitment to diversity and, in this instance, the important role females play in the game at all levels,” she said.

Have you seen anything happening in the sporting world that you want to talk about?