Sacrifice and the will to win!
After competing in my third Olympic Games in 2000 at the age of 26, I finally decided to hang up the goggles for good. At that point, I was a wife and a mum and felt exhausted both physically and mentally. It felt as if my whole life up until that point had been completely consumed by swimming and everything that encompassed being an athlete and competing at an international level. I was thankful that I had at least allowed myself a two-year window of normality after the 1996 Olympics to marry my childhood sweetheart and have a baby.
It never really dawned on me during those years that I completely missed out on a normal childhood, and definitely bypassed being the quintessential teenager. It has only been in the last year that I have really reflected on my swimming career and the sacrifices I made, as well as the sacrifices my parents made during those years of training and competing.
The catalyst for this has been my own son’s improving swimming abilities and training regimen. My 14-year-old has started morning sessions – after grunting upon waking, the car ride to the pool is often a quiet one. I learnt quickly that trying to make chitchat was a bad idea. It only left me feeling unappreciated and unloved. So I asked my mum what our car rides where like all those years ago when she would ferry me back and forth 10 times a week:
“You would be in the worst moods in the car ride there and I often wanted to pull the car over and tell you to walk the rest of the way, but then the car ride home always made up for it. You were proud of how hard you had trained and you would talk non-stop about your times in training and the amazing comments the coach had given you. I loved hearing what your goals were and I was amazed and so proud that you wanted to go the Olympics so desperately.”
As a 38-year-old, I would never change those years of competing for anything. Wearing the green and gold and walking out onto the concourse to swim for my country is a memory that is burned into my mind forever. Yes, I sacrificed a lot, but I would do it all again in a heartbeat and, upon asking my parents about their own sacrifices (which included mum sleeping in the car because we couldn’t afford the petrol, and spending most weekends at swimming competitions), their reply was: “The sacrifices we made were well and truly worth it. Your will to win and your pride in swimming for Australia made us feel like we were right there with you.”
Whether my own sons compete at the highest level or not, I’ll still treasure all the car rides to the pool and back. The best part is, unlike my mum, I get to drive back home and hop back into bed!