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“Our Cate” Campbell – I’m Not A Nice Person!


Cate ecstatic after breaking the supersuit world record in the 100m freestyle at an Olympic warm-up meet in Brisbane. Photo: Swimming Australia

You can call Cate Campbell a golden girl, just don’t call her a nice girl.

“I’m actually not a nice person,”

“No it’s true and you know what? We went to see Oprah and she said it’s ok to not be nice.

“I’m lots of other things but I’m not nice.”

So what is she?

“I’m very firm in my beliefs, I’m very judgemental.”

And she’s determined to ensure that the female swimmers receive the acknowledgement they deserve this Olympic Games.

She’s already started to do that, smashing the supersuit world record in a warm up meet in Brisbane – that’s right, one of “those” records we never thought would be beaten again. Both the 50m and 100m world records are Cate’s.

And she’s at work again now as she begins her campaign for gold at Rio. It’s a campaign that will pit her against sister Bronte in the same event. A campaign that has seen Cate become one of the biggest stars on the Australian team and the one to beat this Olympic Games.

I could use the words ‘role model’ and ‘inspirational’ here, but I’m pretty sure Cate would prefer to be associated with words such as ‘equality’ and phrases like ‘fair acknowledgement’.

And it’s something the 24 year old feels strongly about.

“It’s funny the inadvertent sexism that’s everywhere in society,”

“It’s funny the inadvertent sexism that’s everywhere in society,” Cate tells Sportette.

“and you have to call it out and they’re like stop being so precious or you’re being a feminist and you’re like no no no…it just frustrates me.”

“The more that I see of the world the more frustrated I get.”

Cate may have spent a lot of her time with her head in the water, but her views of the world haven’t been morphed by any rose-coloured goggles.

“Mum’s always been a very strong person. Growing up we were never told we couldn’t do something because we were girls it was always sure you can go out and play and do that.”

The Campbell sisters are undoubtedly the main focuses of the Australian Swim Team for the Rio Games, and traditionally the Olympics are when female athletes have shone the brightest. Looking back on the past decade, the women in the Australian Swim Team have consistently been leading the way.

In London, the women won 7 medals including Australia’s only swimming gold medal, the men just 3. While in Beijing the women won 12 medals (6 gold) and the men 8 medals but not one gold.

The women’s 100 metre freestyle relay team is the defending Gold medallist and world record holder – yes they too broke one “of those” supersuit records in 2014, yet ever since the boys smashed guitars the men’s relay has been considered the blue riband event.

The Campbell sisters inspiring a new generation of women in sport. Photo: Swimming Australia

The Campbell sisters inspiring a new generation of women in sport. Photo: Swimming Australia

“For one person to swim faster than a supersuit is something but to get four girls who are swimming faster than that – it’s unbelievable. We won the world championship in 2015 as well,” Cate says excitedly as she relives the moment again.

But it was the last night of the World Championships in Kazan, that really frustrated Cate. Bronte had swum her way into the history books backing up her 100m freestyle win with another gold in the 50m, but when Cate switched onto a prominent news website the next morning, the main article was on the Men’s Relay Team’s silver.

“Bronte was an individual world champion gold medallist and the headline was “The Boys Nearly Win” – that made me really angry.”

“Bronte was like only the third person in history to win the 100 freestyle and 50 freestyle double – third person in history and the boys nearly won.”

Often it’s not until these things are blatantly pointed out that those pushing the buttons on the keyboard can question their own bias. There’s no doubting the women on the swim team get plenty of attention, but how hard do they have to work and how many medals do they have to win to receive it?

It’s Cate’s third Olympics and her first real crack at gold in her pet event, the 100m freestyle. At Beijing, Cate was the fresh faced 16 year old who took bronze in the 50m freestyle and was a part of the bronze medal winning 100m freestyle relay team.

In London, she won gold in the 100m freestyle relay but both herself and Bronte didn’t make the final of the 50m freestyle. Their campaigns ended with a family emergency when they received news their youngest brother Hamish was rushed to hospital.

“We got a call that he was in life saving surgery, they were like, we don’t know if he’s going to make it,”

“Closing ceremony day we got a call that he was in life saving surgery, they were like, we don’t know if he’s going to make it,” Cate tells Sportette.

While the aftermath of the Australian swim team’s London campaign saw the media and spotlight focus on the infamous stillnox scandal, few knew the private turmoil Cate and Bronte were enduring as their brother fought for life.

Cate and younger brother Hamish.

Cate and younger brother Hamish.

Hamish suffers from cerebral palsy and needs around the clock palliative care. Time is what these girls work in the pool for less of but out of it are desperate for more of it with their brother.

“He’s had a rough couple of years… We may have three months or three years we don’t know.”

“It does give you perspective that a) you have a good life and b) it’s just sport, there are bigger issues in the world.”

That 16 year old from Beijing now enters Rio a proven leader both in and out of the water. Her flipper like feet are firmly on the ground.

She’s earned the right to tell it how it is, in the hope that these subconscious  bias’ change. It is her style after all.

I have disagree with her on one thing though, she’s not judgemental, she’s honest, articulate and intelligent. Just not nice, don’t call Cate nice.

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