People always associate former Australian champions such as Ian Thorpe, Kieran Perkins, Susie O’Neil or Dawn Fraser with the great sport of swimming.
For me, there has been no greater influence on swimming in our country than Libby Trickett, who after a decorated career, retired from competitive swimming today.
Her unmistakable smile, her passion, her skill and her undeniable will to win made Trickett an instant fan favourite with the Aussie public in a time when swimming was at its peak.
A lot has been made of Libby retiring again. However, she should be given the credit she deserves. She has paved the way for the young superstars that have come through in the last few years such as Cate Campbell, Yolane Kulka, Alicia Coutts and Emma McKeon.
Breaking through in a time that was dominated by the boys, Libby showed the girls that it was possible to achieve their goals, as she broke several world records, won world championship golds in 2005 and 2007, Olympic golds in 2004, 2008 and 2012, and the Commonwealth gold in 2006.
There is no doubting that she was a champion of her time. In a sport full of giants, this pocket rocket, standing 1.67 metres tall, proved that it was not about the size of the dog in the fight; it was about the size of the fight in the dog.
I will never forget being in the stands at the Sydney Olympic Aquatic Centre in 2007 when she stepped up on the blocks next to superstar American Michael Phelps for a mixed 4×100 freestyle relay. Not only was she seen in the marshalling area trying to intimidate Phelps by walking towards him and slapping her chest, but Trickett went out in front of a packed house and broke the world record, in turn becoming the first women ever to go under 53 seconds for a 100m freestyle.
No intimidation, and no fear. Just guts, speed and crazy talent. For me, as a coach and a lover of the sport, this was a moment that has never left me, and in all fairness, the sport’s popularity has never risen to those heights again, which has a lot to do with Trickett.
Unfortunately for her, a wrist injury that occurred during weights training has proved too much to overcome, and she has decided to close the curtain on her illustrious career.
“It’s something that I’ve been thinking about for almost a year now, and after much consideration and speaking with my family and close friends I know that I am ready to move on to the next stage of my life and career,” Trickett told a media conference at North Sydney Pool.
“Through swimming I’ve been able to travel the world doing something that I love and this great sport has provided me with so many fantastic memories and opportunities.
“I would like to thank everyone for their fantastic support throughout my career, especially my family and coaches Stephan Widmer and Grant Stoelwinder.”
With Swimming Australia losing its major sponsorship with Energy Australia this year due to constant misdemeanours within the swim team, including the men’s 4×100 relay team’s late night Stilnox romp in the lead up to 2012 London Olympics and then the accusation of inappropriate behaviour by the then president of Swimming Australia Barclay Nettlefold, Australian swimming is in desperate need of some good news, something Trickett has always managed to give, something for which she should hold her head high. If your kid has a poster of Trickett on their wall, you haven’t a whole lot to worry about.
“I can’t name one single regret. I’ve appreciated every single moment and experience and opportunity that I’ve ever been given in my swimming and I’m really proud of how I conducted myself not only as a competitor but as a person through that time,” said Trickett, who will be hosting a program on the Ten Network.
“That’s something that I’m really proud of.”
Congratulations Libby, you truly are a legend of the sport of swimming, and will be remembered for your courage, tenacity and unbelievable talent. We, as a sport, will miss you.