If Tokyo A No Go Cate Campbell Makes Call To Swim On Till 2024

Cate Campbell 3 - Delly Carr Collection
FRENCH CONNECTION: Cate Campbell says she will seriously consider swimming on until the 2024 Olympics in Paris. Photo Courtesy Delly Carr (Swimming Australia).

With the world shutting down and pressure mounting hourly to make a call on the troubled Tokyo Olympics, Australian swimming’s golden girl and triple Olympian Cate Campbell is already thinking about extending her career until the 2024 Paris Games.

It comes amid fears that the Tokyo Olympics could be postponed or cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

In an exclusive interview today with Sydney’s Sunday Telegraph, the double Olympic gold medallist revealed she would recommit to another four years if the biggest sports event in the world is called off.

“In my head I think that’s something that I’d really like to do,” said Campbell, who last week stopped close but certainly hinting that Tokyo may well see the final curtain fall on a stellar career – but leaving the door ajar, just in case. And that just in case scenario is unfolding as we speak.

“Going to one Olympics is a pretty big achievement but the fact that I’m now looking at going to four is something that I’m incredibly proud of.

“It’s something that only one other Australian swimmer has done, in Leisel Jones, so I’d kind of like to achieve that, even if that meant deferring that for four years.”

As things stand, the Tokyo Olympics are still going ahead from July but the International Olympic Committee is facing increasing pressure to cancel or postpone them for a year in the hope that the COVID-19 crisis is over by then.

Swimming Australia, USA Swimming and UK Athletics are among the growing list of sporting federations already calling for a rethink and the mutiny is growing, not only because of the health risk but also for the integrity of the competition, which has already been compromised because athletes can’t prepare properly while under lockdown.

Campbell is still in full training in case Tokyo does go ahead this year but has already hatched a contingency plan if there is a 12-month delay, agreeing with her coach Simon Cusack to take an immediate break to freshen her body and then plunge back into work to peak for 2021.

“I haven’t had a straightforward career by any stretch of the imagination so every setback that I’ve ever encountered that can either be the end or you can focus on the next step to get around that obstacle,” she said.

“At the moment the Olympics is still on and that’s still the end goal so if you encounter a roadblock or a speed bump or an obstacle you just think ‘OK, what’s my next step to get to that end goal’,” said Campbell.

“Sometimes you have to step sideways, sometimes you have to step backwards but you still have that one direction and that one focus, which is part of the athlete mentality and the athlete psyche.

“Athletes are actually really well equipped to deal with problems like this because just about everyone’s encountered a few in their professional careers.

“I’ve been doing this a really long time. Things might have thrown me before but if you’re in an environment that doesn’t panic and looks for creative answers and solutions instead of balking at them that kind of runs off you as well.”

Already one of the sport’s all-time greats with multiple Olympic, World Championship, Pan Pacific and Commonwealth Games medals, the prospect of putting herself through another four years of training would require an astonishing commitment.

Campbell made her Olympic debut at Beijing in 2008 and will be 32 by the time Paris rolls around so if she does go on until 2024, she first wants to take an extended break to start laying the foundations for retirement before getting back in the water.

“I am getting older in life and at some point I need to consider what life looks like outside of the swimming pool,” she said.

“That’s a very difficult thing to do while you’re a full-time swimmer and a full time athlete, so, hypothetically, I would try and figure that out and once I got a little bit of a handle on that I’d come back and try to train for it.”

Campbell started her Olympic career in ’08 with Emily Seebohm who is also preparing for a fourth Games campaign, with the Australian Trials set for Adelaide from June 14-19 – for the moment! Watch this space….

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