THE YEAR THAT CHANGED MY LIFE

Olympian Brit­tany Elm­slie.

Harper’s Bazaar (Australia) - - Contents - The Gold Coast 2018 Com­mon­wealth Games swim­ming pre­lim­i­nar­ies and fi­nals take place April 5–10; gc2018.com.

IN 2017, I FOUND MYVOICE and my in­de­pen­dence as a woman. I bought my first house, I was fresh out of a toxic re­la­tion­ship and I just had a re­ally big year of per­sonal de­vel­op­ment.you might think ‘the year that changed my life’ would re­volve around a swim­ming achieve­ment, but it’s ac­tu­ally quite the op­po­site. Last year was the year I was proud­est of my­self as a hu­man be­ing.what I’m try­ing to achieve with swim­ming is quite rare: to peak at the pin­na­cle of the sport with a gold medal at the Olympic Games. Pre­vi­ously, I’ve achieved two Olympic gold medals in the re­lay, and other in­ter­na­tional swim­ming medals over my 15-year-plus ca­reer in elite sport, but look­ing back on it last year, I re­alised I al­most re­sented some of my achieve­ments be­cause I wasn’t proud of some of the sac­ri­fices I made for them.

As an ath­lete, you have to sac­ri­fice a lot, but mainly I’ve al­ways strug­gled with body im­age. Last year, I apol­o­gised to my­self about how I’d mis­treated and dis­re­spected my body, be­cause I had an eat­ing dis­or­der from the age of 17 that took me five years to fully re­cover from, but I never ac­knowl­edged it as an ob­sta­cle I over­came. I was orig­i­nally ashamed of it and felt like I couldn’t talk to peo­ple about it, but last year I promised my­self I’d no longer find Band-aids or quick fixes for re­cur­ring health is­sues, phys­i­cally and men­tally. I have found ways to deal with them and cope with them, and through that I have learnt how strong my willpower is — the force of it, and the power of us­ing it to achieve self-ac­cep­tance rather than to please oth­ers. In to­day’s so­ci­ety, every­one is try­ing to be some­body else, but I thought, Why don’t I just be me?

I now want to men­tor younger women who as­pire to be elite ath­letes through be­ing the best ver­sion of my­self and a role model for oth­ers.when I was young, I was tal­ented and swim­ming came eas­ily, but I soon learnt that tal­ent can only get you so far.when every­one started to catch up to me per­for­mance-wise and it wasn’t com­ing so eas­ily, I thought, What do I have to do to keep

win­ning? So I learnt to gain satisfacti­on out of push­ing my body on a daily ba­sis, which has been my ground­ing point, and some­thing I’ve re­turned to when I’ve ex­pe­ri­enced ad­ver­sity out­side of the pool. In 2015, I with­drew from Aus­tralia’s world ti­tles team fol­low­ing a breast can­cer scare and the re­moval of a be­nign lump.

It wasn’t re­ally pub­lic knowl­edge, but at the time that the whole breast lump was hap­pen­ing, my par­ents were sep­a­rat­ing, so my whole world was fall­ing apart. I took time out­side of the wa­ter, which was a dif­fi­cult de­ci­sion be­cause I re­alised swim­ming was the only thing that was a con­stant in my life — it wasn’t go­ing to leave me or let me down — but I knew I needed a break emo­tion­ally. I thought stand­ing be­hind the blocks at the Olympics was scary, but sit­ting in the wait­ing room to find out if the lump in your breast is can­cer­ous is re­ally scary.

When I took that time away from swim­ming, I re­set men­tally and got my head around my new fam­ily sit­u­a­tion. Re­al­is­ing that my Olympic dream for Rio the fol­low­ing year was still very much alive, I just had to nar­row my fo­cus and get the work done.af­ter we won in Rio — as soon as I touched the wall — I just broke down. It was a sign I was ex­tremely proud of the way I got to [that point] … pick­ing my­self back up and dust­ing my­self off and get­ting to be a pres­ence in a world-class Aus­tralian freestyle team.

The way you choose to con­duct yourself dur­ing set­backs dis­plays more about your character than when things are go­ing to plan. We’ve just had the tri­als for the [Gold Coast 2018] Com­mon­wealth Games and, sadly, I didn’t make the [Aus­tralian] Dol­phins swim team.this will be the first time for seven years I sit in the stands and not be a part of it.that’s in­cred­i­bly hard, but, at the same time, in­cred­i­bly motivating.

If you don’t meet our team’s world-class stan­dards, you won’t be se­lected. It’s bru­tally cut-throat, but that’s what I love about it. My fo­cus now has to switch.to find ways I can im­prove to en­sure I’m back in the team at my next op­por­tu­nity, in July at the Pan Pacs [Pan Pa­cific Cham­pi­onship] se­lec­tion tri­als.this way of think­ing is how I want to live my life. Both in and out of the wa­ter.

Brit­tany Elm­slie wears Michael Lo Sordo jacket, $640, from the­un­done.com; her own Speedo swim­suit (also worn on op­po­site page).

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