Pool star Cate Campbell says Covid lifted the blinkers, with her modifying her training load and realising she didn’t need a lot to be happy. So will the Paris Olympics be part of her future?
Swim queen Cate Campbell has given her strongest hint yet that she will swim on to the 2024 Olympic Games.
Asked if she had made up her mind about her future, Campbell confirmed she had pencilled in Paris and will start training in the New Year.
“No firm decisions have been made but I have written, in pencil, 2024 in a plan — it is not inked yet but it is something I see myself working towards,” Campbell said.
“I’m not getting back into training until the New Year to give myself a complete break. Covid took off the blinkers in a lot of ways.”
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Campbell, who this month started a new role as analyst with economics firm Deloitte, said enforced lockdown — and lockout from training — was a revelation in modifying training load.
“That eight-week lockdown period where we had no access at all to the pool or proper training facilities was a revelation to myself and our coaches,” the 29-year-old said.
“I felt like I lost strength and fitness very quickly — because we were completely out of the water — but it surprised me how quickly that it came back.
“While we may ‘de-train’ really quickly … we ‘train-up’ really quickly and one of the biggest take outs was, we shouldn’t be afraid of giving people time off to recover.
“And this has made me optimistic about this break I am having.
“I don’t feel like it’s such a time sensitive issue. I now have the confidence I can get to being back at my best relatively quickly.
“Admittedly this is a much bigger break than the eight weeks but I am keeping myself in good physical shape.
“I’m fit and healthy just not at elite level which, at times, is actually bordering on unhealthy.”
Already a leader among her peers, Campbell, deputy chair of the Athletes’ Commission, is also positioning herself for life after the black line.
In addition to Deloittes and her AOC position, Campbell will be one of the faces for the 2032 Brisbane Olympics.
“The next few months and into next year is all about taking on new challenges and broadening my skill set for the eventual transition out of the pool,” she said.
“Whether that’s after Paris 2024 or sooner, I want to make sure I am equipped for the next stage of life.
“I’ve also learned that developing hobbies outside of swimming is good for me … I’ve really enjoyed getting out and photographing sunrises and refurbishing old furniture.
“Covid took off the blinkers. For some of us it was about learning to stop, to stop being hamsters on the wheel.
“It was like Covid came and put a big spoke in the wheel and flung us off and there was a whole other world out there.
“Some of us have decided to climb back on while others have decided to do something completely different.
“For me, it opened up my mind and made me realise that I can be happy with very little.
“And it’s all about the people I spend time with.”
Campbell, who was given the honour of carrying the Australian flag at the Opening Ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics, would be a valuable addition to Australia’s relay stocks in Paris.
If she swims in Paris she would become the first Australian swimmer to attend five Olympics.
In Japan, she teamed up with sister Bronte in the 4x100m freestyle relay that broke the world record to win the gold medal.
It was Cate’s third straight gold medal in the women’s relay after helping the Dolphins to gold in Rio and London.
She then won a bronze medal in the 100m freestyle final to collect her first individual medal of the Tokyo Games in an event won by teammate Emma McKeon.
But arguably Campbell’s greatest performance in Tokyo came in her final race when she unleashed a last-lap sprint to snatch victory in the medley relay to win the fourth Olympic gold medal of her stellar career.
Olympian named as Stingers’ new coach
— Erin Smith
He has not met half the team but new coach Paul Oberman is confident he can get the Australian women’s water polo team on the podium at next year’s World Championships.
One goal was all that stopped the Stingers from beating Russia in the quarter-finals in Tokyo and progressing through to the semi-finals.
Oberman, who played for the Australian men’s team at the Barcelona Games, was the assistant coach to the Sharks for 11 years and the head coach at the Western Australian Institute of Sport for 12 years before taking on the Technical Director role in Singapore.
He was 18 when he first tried his hand at coaching the women’s A-grade team at the Triton Water Polo club.
“It has been a lifelong dream to be the head coach of the Australian men’s or women’s team, now that I’ve got that the next step is to be the best the we can be,” Oberman said.
The 52-year-old already has a plan to get the Stingers back to their winning ways.
“I believe the women’s team has a good blend of experience and youth and there are some talented young players in the system who will be pushing to be in the team,” he said.
“A few skill execution errors is what has put them on the wrong side of the winning line.”
Oberman will shake-up the women’s style of play introducing a more active, fast-paced game all the way down the chain from the national team to junior level.
Experience is also key – something the women lacked in the lead up to the Tokyo Olympics due to Covid-19 border closures and travel bans.
With life returning slowly to a new normal, Oberman hopes the Australian women’s team will be able to compete at a range of international tournaments and hold camps overseas.
“I want to create opportunities for the younger players and give them the experience and chance to push their case forward,” he said.
“The only way our younger athletes are going to get better is through game experience.”
The world championships are due to be held in Japan in May.
Despite the lack of preparation time Oberman said there was no reason the Stingers could not claim a spot on the podium there or at the Games in Paris.
Oberman will land in Sydney on Saturday morning.
He will spend the time travelling around Australia checking out the national league games, talking to coaches and scouting talent.
Oberman’s 12-month stint in Singapore proved challenging, especially as he was unable to be with family when his mother suddenly passed away.
The experienced coach had resigned from his technical director role, ready to make the move back home, four days before Water Polo Australia contacted him with the job offer.
Water Polo Australia announced in September it was looking to relocate to Brisbane ahead of the 2032 Games.
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