Cate Campbell, you are still a champion

sheek Roar Guru

By sheek, sheek is a Roar Guru

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    When Cate Campbell imploded in the women’s 100m freestyle final – the most certain of our certain gold medallists – I was as stunned as anyone.

    Like many fans, I wondered how a swimmer competing at her third games, at age 24 and at the peak of her powers – a current world record holder and former world champion who is vastly experienced at a multitude of meets over nearly a decade – could swim like a rookie when presented with her greatest moment.

    This was Cate’s moment, this was her ‘window’ – but unbelievably she failed to grasp the moment.

    She has now told us why.

    Cate has been carrying a hernia for some time. It obviously hurts but that isn’t the real reason. The real reason is pent-up emotional energy that left her physically drained.

    She says it started in the early hours of the day of the final, around 2am. Remember, the final wasn’t swum until about 10.30 m that night. So she basically spent the best part of 20 hours turning herself inside out.

    Cate wanted this one gold medal so badly, she could taste it. This was the culmination of about more than 15 years of constant training and hard slog. She played in her mind over and over how she must swim her race and the probable thrill she will feel when she touches first. But what if she didn’t?

    Then the doubt began to consume her. As the day progressed her mood went from elation to despair and back again. Basically, the burden of expectation, that of her own and her country, overwhelmed her.

    It’s little wonder by the time she stood on the blocks she was already drained physically and emotionally.

    And it got worse. She rocked back as the starter’s gun went off, making her miss the start by crucial fractions of a second. Then, as is often the case, she panicked and over-swam. She worked too hard getting back into the race.

    Incredibly, by the time they all reached the 50m wall, she was in front. But she wasn’t swimming her normal race. She wondered as she pushed off the wall if she would have any gas at the other end. She wouldn’t.

    With just 15 metres to go, Cate was still in front and her sister Bronte second, but then both hit the ‘wall’, Cate dropping back to sixth and Bronte fourth.

    Heck, we’ve all been there, the pent-up emotion that is. It might have been that stunning girl you wanted to date. But drumming up the courage to ask her out amid fear of a rejection consumed you for hours or days before you summoned the necessary courage to ‘make the call.’

    It could have been that job you wanted, but first you had to go through the hell of the interview. By the time you sat down for the interview you were probably already an emotional wreck having played the scene over and over many times in your head.

    In the immediate aftermath of the race, I and others were possibly harsh in comparing Cate to Michael Phelps.

    At five Olympics, Phelps contested 30 events for 23 gold medals, three silver medals, two bronze medals, one fourth and one fifth. 30 times out of 30 he made a final.

    Further broken down, Phelps won 13 individual gold, two silver and a bronze from 18 individual events and ten team gold, one silver and one bronze from 12 team relay events.

    His worst result was as a 15-year-old in Sydney when he finished fifth in the 200m butterfly. His only other unplaced swim was in London when he finished fourth in the 400m individual medley.

    How was it that Phelps could prepare himself to make 18 individual finals out of 18, medal 16 times and win 13 gold medals, controlling his emotions and nailing his performance time and time again, while Cate struggled to do it the one big chance she got?

    I don’t know the answer and no doubt Cate will spend plenty of time seeking it. Those who can control their emotions at the most critical moment are the lucky ones.

    But here’s the thing, Cate now thinks she is a failure. She most certainly is not!

    That is so far from the truth. She is a champion. She is an Olympian. She is a finalist. She is a medallist and she is a gold medallist. Twice in fact.

    In addition, she comes across as an outstanding human being. As indeed does her sister Bronte. She has my deepest sympathy and support.

    I wish her well in the future and I sincerely hope that she will be able to find redemption, reconciliation, peace and acceptance in her mind.

    Cate Campbell is a champion!

    A former rugby lock, cricket no.11 bat and no.10 bowler, and surfboat rower. A fan of the major team sports in Australia.

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    The Crowd Says (17)

    • August 27th 2016 @ 7:20am
      Sandy B said | August 27th 2016 @ 7:20am | ! Report

      I agree sheek

    • Roar Pro

      August 27th 2016 @ 7:50am
      Mike Huber said | August 27th 2016 @ 7:50am | ! Report

      “The real reason is pent-up emotional energy that left her physically drained.”

      If that is the case where was the Psychologist ? Presumably if she was a nervous wreck for 20 hours prior to the race a clinical professional could of helped her . Cates failure was symptomatic of something bigger – systemic coaching failures from the swim team – from muddled minds to dodgy starts , an unmitigated disaster .

      The swim team are a joke , they need tough love not articles swooning over their vulnerabilities , as we all have those !

      • Roar Guru

        August 27th 2016 @ 2:18pm
        sheek said | August 27th 2016 @ 2:18pm | ! Report

        That’s a question I asked myself also.

        The swim team is full psychologists & other support staff. Surely, the coaches must have been aware of Cate’s mindset. Put her in a relay team & she acknowledges herself, she’s fine. But when it’s just her on the blocks for herself, she suffers from anxiety.

        Somehow that was missed. Then again, maybe they were aware of it but were unable to control the situation.

        • August 29th 2016 @ 10:12am
          Let The One King Rule said | August 29th 2016 @ 10:12am | ! Report

          I have been a clinical psychologist for the last 10 years, and have worked with a fair share of patients suffering from performance related anxiety. I don’t pretend to be as experienced as the clinicians working on the Australian swim team, so take with a grain of salt, but if I were to be presented with a client who presented to me with the symptoms mentioned by Cate, I’d say it would be very unlikely for them to ever be able to perform to expectations under pressure. To help a patient like that, cognitive behavioral therapy is recommended, and treatment would focus on challenging the client’s belief that performance was of paramount importance.

          Anxiety results from the belief that this is an all-or-nothing proposition – some people perform well under those circumstances, but some don’t. Psychologists understand, unfortunately, that it is impossible to teach someone who doesn’t thrive under pressure to be taught to thrive under pressure. They can learn to cope. They can learn to perform. They cannot be taught to revel in that pressure, to process it into something transcendent and to use it to help them to surpass their limits. It is always going to be an impediment for them, whereas for certain others it is the exact opposite.

          In every sport, there has existed a ‘great’ remembered not just for their ability, but for their ability to produce their absolute best when it really mattered. It is a kind of bottled lightning. It can’t be reproduced or taught or trained, and it’s as important a kind of giftedness (when it comes to sports, for such individuals also tend to have less happy lives) as the more obvious physical gifts without which our elite sportspeople would be average joes like you and I (or at least, like me).

          For someone like Cate, or for someone like Cate appears to be from this article, the best you can hope for is to help them to be able to feel that there IS no pressure. You can teach someone who suffers from performance anxiety to cope well enough to perform, but you can’t teach them to peak. They are always going to perform better when the stakes aren’t high. Always.

          This is important because the whole nature of the Olympics – the public expectation, the spectacle, once every four years, the media scrutiny – would all work against the therapeutic approach. To cut a long story short, any progress I could make with a client like Cate would be constantly undone by everyone else in her life saying the exact opposite of what she would need to hear to perform to her potential.

          The situation – her anxiety standing on the blocks – wasn’t missed. It simply could not be controlled. There was no way of pretending that this one didn’t matter, that everyone wasn’t expecting the gold, that her life wouldn’t completely change based on the result of that one race. It was do or die. It was the Olympics. By the she got there, it was already too late to do anything for her.

    • August 27th 2016 @ 8:54am
      peeeko said | August 27th 2016 @ 8:54am | ! Report

      an olympic gold medalist

    • August 27th 2016 @ 9:45am
      BrainsTrust said | August 27th 2016 @ 9:45am | ! Report

      None of this explains how the swim team was off to such a great start early including Bronte Campbell and MAck Horton and then went downhill. The obvious explanation is the gas in Australia’s Olympic village building and the complete ignorance of Australia’s officials in letting them move into the building.

    • August 27th 2016 @ 10:30am
      GD66 said | August 27th 2016 @ 10:30am | ! Report

      Hey, that’s racing ! You need a lot of things to fall into place to win, and there’s always someone waiting to beat you. Pressure is an intangible, and although I am not an Olympian, I have competed in three sports at national level and the mental component is by far the most difficult factor to control. I was quite stunned (but in hindsight, not all that surprised) at the response of many in the sporting media, most of whom couldn’t run out of sight on a dark night, to the “failures” of our athletes. The nagging clue to me was the alarming number of athletes who “left it all out there” which I feel indicates there are too many mind coaches, psychologists and spin doctors on the considerable payroll who may have uni qualifications but no actual top-level sporting participation or experience on their cv to impart to our sporting reps. Felt like it to me, anyway.

    • August 27th 2016 @ 2:04pm
      Onside said | August 27th 2016 @ 2:04pm | ! Report

      Swimming is a cruel sport. Not necessarily fun. From a very early age little kids are hustled out of bed early on cold mornings to swim laps before school, staring at nothing but a black line on the bottom of a pool. Many parents, living dreams through their kids, make them repeat the experience again after school. It’s relentless.

      Of course Australia loves its champion swimmers ,well once every four years at least, when a lifetime of an athlete swimming thousands of kilometers of laps is remembered in a space no human being can measure , like one, one hundredth of a second.

      At the 2012 Olympics ,James Magnussen was beaten in the 100 meter freestyle by one, one hundredth of a second, and despite gaining a silver medal was considered a failure. There are well ventilated extenuating circumstances , but the fact remains Magnussen is remembered for failing to win gold by two,one hundredths of a second.

      Swimming is made for television. Coloured caps, often chasing a moving blue line, amply the tension.

      However in between each Olympic Games, the public can watch world class swimmers at every State Championship in Australia. No need to book, just turn up and sit anywhere you want. The stands are relatively empty because most people only care about swimming once every four years.

      Absolutely Cate Campbell is a champion, but the majority of people don’t get it. Never will.

      • August 27th 2016 @ 9:59pm
        Scuba said | August 27th 2016 @ 9:59pm | ! Report

        Magnussen was considered a failure because of the WMD garbage he spouted before the 2012 games. If he’d shut his mouth he’d be considered a hero.

        • August 28th 2016 @ 10:11am
          BrainsTrust said | August 28th 2016 @ 10:11am | ! Report

          Magnussen is considered a failure because he swam almost a second outside his best in the freestyle relay final.
          Getting a silver with half a second faster wasn’t going to make up for that on two fronts.
          Firstly it wasn’t that great a time so he still should have got the gold.
          More importantly it makes him look selfish, he dudded his teammates., thoiugh they also underperformed.
          Kate Campbell on the other hand she put the best 100m time in the relays.
          Her swim in the final medley went from 6th to 2nd so she earnt gold and silver for others.
          Then you have to look at Magnussens dud swim in the 4x100m final this time around.
          Cameron McEvoy at least performed in that relay, and got back the bronze medal,.

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