Busy life in quest for gold

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - PAY TV -

IT’S a busy time for Libby Trick­ett. Her sis­ter and a friend are due to de­liver babies within the next month. Trick­ett and her hus­band Luke have moved into a new home, so they’re ‘‘try­ing to sort things out and fi­nalise the things you al­ways seem to for­get about’’.

Then there’s the mat­ter of the three-time Olympic gold medal­list, who used to hold the world record in the women’s 100m freestyle, com­ing out of re­tire­ment to race at the Lon­don Olympics.

Un­der her maiden name of Libby Len­ton, Trick­ett took home re­lay gold at the 2004 Athens Olympics. She wed fel­low swim­mer Luke Trick­ett in 2007 and won two more gold medals in Bei­jing in 2008 – in­clud­ing the 100m but­ter­fly.

A cou­ple of years later, she re­tired. But the al­lure of the pool proved too great, and now she’s pre­par­ing to travel to Lon­don in the hope of achiev­ing vic­tory in the 4 x 100m freestyle re­lay.

Her jour­ney is doc­u­mented, along with other Olympians and Par­a­lympians, in the ABC doc­u­men­tary se­ries Race to Lon­don. Libby, can you talk about what led you to re­tire from swimming and what drew you back?

The eas­i­est way to ex­plain it is when you com­pete at the elite level for as many years as I did, it gets very com­pli­cated. It’s not just about swimming any more. There are pres­sures and ex­pec­ta­tions you have to deal with. There are spon­sor­ship obli­ga­tions and me­dia com­mit­ments.

I guess the best way I could de­scribe how I was feel­ing was I was burnt out. I felt I needed time away from the sport and re­tire­ment seemed the nat­u­ral way to do that. I’m not a per­son who does things by halves – I ei­ther do some­thing or I don’t.

Spend­ing time away from the sport, I got to view swimming from a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive and ob­serve from a dis­tance some­thing I’d been in­ti­mately in­volved with for so many years. With that clearer view, I re­alised I could have a sim­pler, un­com­pli­cated re­la­tion­ship with swimming. There are still ex­ter­nal fac­tors, but I now feel I man­age them a lot bet­ter while still en­joy­ing my swimming. It was a re­ally im­por­tant thing for me to go through. You’ve talked about re­dis­cov­er­ing your love and en­joy­ment of the sport. Is that feel­ing vi­tal to suc­cess at an elite level?

Oh, ab­so­lutely. When you love what you do, it makes ev­ery­thing a lot eas­ier. Swimming’s a hard sport. You’re up at five in the morn­ing, six days a week. You’re push­ing your­self phys­i­cally and men­tally. When you add the fact it’s a high-pro­file sport it can be­come a very stress­ful en­vi­ron­ment. I started swimming be­cause I loved it and I reached the level I reached be­cause I was com­mit­ted to it. Hav­ing that time away, it al­lowed me to re­fresh and reen­er­gise. Was the men­tal chal­lenge as tough as the phys­i­cal chal­lenge?

I thought it would only be a phys­i­cal chal­lenge. When I first made my de­ci­sion, it was af­ter a year where most of the time I did turn off the alarm and go back to sleep. When you train at an elite level, you can’t af­ford to do that. So get­ting into the mind­set where you don’t give your­self the op­tion to sleep in was tough. To be hon­est, the chal­lenge of try­ing to be­come strong and fit and lean again was the big­gest. I re­mem­bered how fit and strong I had been and was nowhere near it when I started train­ing again. It tried my pa­tience be­cause

I’m gen­er­ally a pretty im­pa­tient per­son. But you hadn’t let your­self go too much, had you?

I’d put on 10 ki­los! (Laughs). You don’t put that on when you’re ac­tive. I cer­tainly wasn’t as ac­tive as I should have been and I wasn’t eat­ing as well as I should have . . . One of the most valu­able lessons I’ve learned on this jour­ney is pa­tience. You’ve com­peted in all kinds of meets and events. What makes the Olympics so dif­fer­ent?

In many ways, it’s not dif­fer­ent – the pool is the same size, the wa­ter is ex­actly the same, the com­peti­tors are gen­er­ally the same. What’s dif­fer­ent is ev­ery­thing else. The build-up, the en­ergy, the pub­lic­ity – ev­ery­thing is at a level you can’t re­ally com­pre­hend un­til you ex­pe­ri­ence it for the first time. It’s a lit­tle eas­ier once you know what to ex­pect, but it’s still such a rush to be part of an Aus­tralian Olympic team. And you can use that en­ergy and that ex­cite­ment in a pos­i­tive way. But it can also be very scary and over­whelm­ing. I think that’s what happened to me at my first Olympics. But I’m con­fi­dent in where I’m at right now and the 4 x 100m freestyle re­lay team should be a great team to be a part of – one that could po­ten­tially medal, pos­si­bly gold.

8pm, ABC1.


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Libby Trick­ett beats a time trial in Mel­bourne this year.

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