The Olympics as a whole was an absolute buzz for me. I loved every second of my experience. Coming home with a gold, two silver medals and a fourth place is something that I am incredibly proud of! With 18 months of training under my belt since retiring in 2010, I am now extremely optimistic and confident about my journey to Rio with a full 4-year block of training.
Since returning home the question I get asked the most is how did it feel to win gold?! So here it is…
The 4x100 Freestyle relay was my first event of the 2012 Olympics. We had been told the week before at our staging camp that Cate Campbell, Alicia Coutts and myself would all be going straight through to the final. It's a good tactic on the world stage to rest as many swimmers as possible because often races come down to a fingernail and being fresh for the final can make that 1% of difference between a gold and silver.
With three spots already filled we had a team of four girls in the morning given the task of qualifying our team and swimming off for one spot in that final. Emily Seebohm, Yolane Kukla, Brittany Elmslie and Libby Trickett all did their job superbly and qualified the team fastest and into lane four. The splits for the morning were analysed by the coaching staff and they were faced with choosing one swimmer to go through to the final. Emily had led off with a 54.2 and Britt had split a 53.4. With the consideration of a dive start versus a fly start these two girls were neck and neck for the spot in the final. Olympic rookie Britt Elmslie deservingly got the nod and our finals team was complete.
I have to say that this race was by far the one I was most nervous for. My preparation had been my best yet and I was confident in the work I had done in the past. However, my taper at the Olympic trials was slightly off and I had lost too much strength during the resting phase. Having learnt from this my coach and I had decided to change the tapering of my gym and land based training to try to better maintain strength into the competition. Having not tested this new tactic prior to the Olympics I was a little nervous of how I would swim. Did we keep it up too much? Am I not fresh enough? Did we still drop it too much? How will the new gym work transfer into the pool?...Plenty of questions running through my head. On top of this there were thoughts such as; my first race of the Olympics, and my first race in over two months would be an Olympic Final. My first swim on the national team in four years would be anchoring the Australian team home. I would be diving in against the only woman in the world to swim under 53 seconds in a textile suit.
Instead of getting overwhelmed I simply backed myself. I was confident I could swim fast and that is all that I needed to do. I stopped thinking about it all and just stayed in the moment I was in. No thinking about the past and especially no thinking about the future. At the pool that night I went about my own business as the other girls did. We sat around in the Australian warm up area stretching, listening to music and getting our body activated. Next it was into the water to warm up before getting our racing suit on and heading off to the marshaling room. We met together as a team with our relay coach Shannon Rollason. His message to us was that despite being in lane 4 we weren't the favourites and there was no pressure or expectation for us to win. All we had to do was go out do what we already know how to do; swim fast and have fun…That's exactly what we did.
As we sat in the marshaling room together we just chatted and laughed with each other and with a few of the American girls. Before we knew it, we were being called forward to get ready to walk out…it was go time. With a huge rush of adrenaline and a roar from the crowd we walked onto pool deck. Alicia Coutts was off first and got us off to a flying start. She had dipped under 54 seconds to have us right in the mix with the Dutch and USA. Cate Campbell dived in and swam a great leg of 53.3 to have us up with the USA and pulling away from the Dutch. Next up was Brittany who bravely repeated her great morning swim to split 53.4 again and have us in the lead. Finally it was my turn to anchor the team home. We had about a body length on the Dutch and a head on the USA when I dived in. It was the perfect position to capture gold and I knew we were in with a shot. After a split second freak out on the block I was determined not to let anyone past me and swim the way I knew I could. The American girl, Alison Schmitt came at me down the first lap and drew level. I couldn't see the Dutch girl, Ranomi Kromowidjojo but as the fastest girl in history in a textile suit, I knew she would be hunting me down. I tried to keep my concentration in my own lane and on my own race plan. I remember feeling amazing down that first lap and knew I had a great second 50 to come. I turned at the 50 and still couldn't see Ranomi but could hear the crowd. It seemed the two girls on either side of me had burned too much energy trying to catch up in the first lap. From that point it was just sheer determination to get my hand to the wall first. Touching that wall, I had no idea where the other girls were and turned to see the scoreboard. Number 1, Australia! We had won gold!
There are no words to adequately describe the feeling of achieving a life long dream. Particularly when just two years ago I believed that dream was gone for good. Standing on top of the medal dais with the biggest gold medal I have ever seen hanging around my neck and singing the national anthem at the top of my lungs along with three other girls, has to be the proudest moment of my life so far. Advance Australia Fair!