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Cate Campbell channels career lows into advice for Youth Olympians

14 November 2018

BUENOS AIRES 2018: If there is one athlete who has experienced the absolute highs of sporting success juxtaposed to the crushing lows of not meeting your personal expectations, it’s three-time Olympic swimmer Cate Campbell. 

Having experienced her own ups and downs in a career spanning over a decade – and with no signs of slowing down – the 26-year-old was more than qualified to provide support and advice for our Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympic Games (YOG) Team last month. 

Campbell, who was representing Australia at the Olympism in Action forum in Argentina in early October, used her spare time to support the Aussie athletes performing on the biggest stage of their young careers. 

“It was great to come into the Olympic village and mingle with Australia's young athletes,” Campbell said. 

“I was able to witness the highs and the lows of the athletes when they came back to the village after their events. Having already ridden the sports rollercoaster of highs and lows I could see all the feelings I've felt in their faces. 

“I was able to celebrate with them or commiserate with them and pass on some of the things that I have learned over my career.” 

Cate Campbell, jess Fox and Chloe Esposito with Youth Olympic Team members at the Embassy event in Argentina

One such athlete to benefit from Campbell’s words of wisdom was 17-year-old triathlete Charlotte Derbyshire. 

Derbyshire, who donned the green and gold on the opening day of the Games, was disappointed with her 18th place finish in the women’s individual race. Heartbroken and downtrodden, Derbyshire caught up with Campbell in the Youth Olympic Village just hours after her race. 

“The most disappointing thing for me was knowing that I could have done a lot better than I did,” Derbyshire said.  

“Cate really understood how low I was feeling to not have a race come off how I imagined it would. 

“Her message to me was that no one thinks any different or worse of you as a person when you do not get the result you want, it doesn’t change who you are.  

“She also reiterated that I should still feel proud of my achievements and one bad race will not define my future. The disappointment was extreme, but she did tell me the hurt would pass and make me hungrier to succeed. I appreciated the time she took to talk to me, I’ll cherish her advice for a long time.” 

Seeing Charlotte’s disappointment, Cate was able to ease her mind by sharing her personal experiences with the Adelaide-local. 

“I met Charlotte in the Village after her race and I was able to share with her my experience in Rio and some of the lessons I have learned from it,” Campbell said. 

“She is an incredibly strong and determined young woman, and you could see that she had given everything in her race. However, sometimes sport doesn’t give us the result that we want, but that is not a reflection on who we are as a person, and you have to work so hard to even get to the starting line - a place most people never even reach. 

“I told her to be proud of herself, to not give up and to go back to her room and watch a movie that makes her laugh. 

“Everyone has a bad race at some point in their career, but it's those who can move on from it, regroup and go back to that starting line who become champions. I know Charlotte is one of those people and I hope that by sharing my story I helped her, in some small way, get back on the bike.” 

And “get back on the bike” Derbyshire did. 

She returned to the course at Green Park four days later for the mixed international relay, alongside fellow Aussie Josh Ferris, and New Zealand triathletes Dylan McCullough and Brea Roderick. 

The quartet came into the event as the underdogs but put up a blistering performance to win the silver medal, 20 seconds behind the gold-medal winning Europe 1 team, but a massive 2 minutes, 27 seconds ahead of the Europe 3 team in bronze. 

Joshua Ferris (AUS), Brea Rodrick (NZ), Dylan McCullough (NZ) and Charlotte Derbyshire (AUS) win silver for Oceania in the Mixed Team Triathlon at Buenos Aires 2018

Derbyshire said the mixed relay felt like an opportunity to redeem herself.  

“I really wanted to use my leg of the relay race to prove to myself that I was capable of matching it with the best female triathletes in the world,” she said. 

“I also really wanted to contribute to the team, we knew we were a chance of medalling, but we certainly were not rated going into the race as all eyes were on the European teams and the Americans.  

“Unfortunately, I got a bad virus in between the two races which was yet another setback I wasn’t anticipating. It really made me dig deep though, I was given the leadoff spot in the relay and I was really grateful for that opportunity and the faith that the coaching staff showed in me. 

“Winning a silver medal meant so much to me! It was such a good feeling to know that all my hard work and training had paid off and that you not only did this for yourself, but other people as well. It was definitely one of the best and most enjoyable races I had ever done.” 

Derbyshire said the main lesson she took from her YOG experience is that the “sun still rises the next day when you are disappointed in your result.” 

“The sun still rises and you will get another chance to race and improve your result. It is sport. You learn from it and you can move on.” 

Georgia Thompson

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