A tearful Cate Campbell has thanked her country for “an outpouring of support’’, a day after she crumbled under the weight of favouritism in the 100m freestyle at the Rio Olympics.
“Australia really came through when I needed it,’’ the world record-holder said.
“The Olympic Games are a bit like a soap opera, there’s highs and lows, there’s triumph and heartbreak, and I just provided the heartbreak in that narrative.’’
Campbell said she felt hugely grateful for the kindness of her teammates, fellow swimmers, supporters and total strangers.
“It’s been incredibly tough but in saying that the support I’ve received has been overwhelming and that’s what really touches me,’’ she said.
“I don’t think I’ve ever received this many hugs, this many messages of support and people have come up and called me a legend when I’ve felt like an idiot, which I think is the highest of compliments.
“The nicest thing that anyone ever said to me, I can’t even remember who it was, they said that people love gold medals, but they love people more, and to hear that was really, really touching for me.’’
Campbell, 24, returned to the pool today to qualify for the 50m freestyle final, in which she is also the top-ranked competitor.
She progressed to tomorrow’s final with the second-fastest time of the day (24.32sec), while her sister Bronte was fifth fastest (24.43sec). Denmark’s Penille Blume was the fastest qualifier (24.28sec).
Campbell said a two-hour nap between the heats and finals had helped her after a fairly sleepless night in the wake of the 100m final.
“I’m stoked to be through to the final and I’m not going in with any expectations,’’ she said.
“It’s been really tough (since the 100m). I figured out that I’d been swimming for over half my life and half your life comes down to less than sixty seconds and it’s your fault and you screwed it up and I cop that on the chin. It was 100 percent my fault.’’
“There is such a thing as wanting it too much and trying too hard.’’
There was more drama even before today’s semi-finals when a bus transporting swimmers from the athletes’ village to the competition venue got lost for an hour with several of the female sprinters on board, including British contender Fran Halsall.
When it eventually arrived, the event was delayed for half an hour to allow them time to warm up for the race. Halsall did well to qualify in fourth place (24.41sec).
The Campbells were already at the pool and Bronte said the delay had no effect on them.
“I’m just really, really happy to be in that final,’’ she said.
“It was really quick to get through and it’s tough backing up after the 100 last night.’’
“I was completely fine. Even last night, it was an Olympic final but I didn’t feel extra pressure, that was all I had to give on the night. That was it. That’s what my body coughed up on the night.’’
Bronte has had to manage a shoulder injury since April, and said she felt better prepared for the shorter distance.
“With a shorter prep, due to injury, it’s more suited to a 50m race than a 100m race,’’ she said.
“That’s not something I’ve even said up until now, because it was not something that was relevant, although it is going to be helpful to me.’’