KZ: Hi Cate and Bronte! Congratulations on your success in Tokyo! What is something about your sport that people are often surprised to learn?
B: I think being a professional, competitive swimmer, I don't think people realise how young we started doing it, and just how much time and energy it takes. More than just the time in the pool, probably the biggest thing is the recovery time necessary and all the little things that happen outside the pool. While we may spend five and a half hours at the pool, the whole rest of the day, and the whole rest of your life is spent around, 'Did I get enough recovery, have I stretched enough, have I loosened up enough, have I used my trigger ball at home, have I eaten enough food, have I eaten the right food?' While it's like a job in some ways because you go to the pool and you do the work in the pool, it's also all the things outside of it that really add up as well. Those are the things that I definitely didn't think about when I was younger, I just thought if I go to the pool, and run around and do my life, it's fine, but you have to change everything in your life to make sure you've got enough energy left to put everything into the pool.
C: People also don't realise that chlorine eats away at your eyebrows. A lot of us have to dye our eyebrows because the chlorine is so strong, it bleaches the hair and because the hairs already short it eats away at some of the hairs. A really common thing that swimmers do before we compete is dye our eyebrows the night before so that you can actually see our eyebrows.
KZ: What is the best thing about being a pro swimmer, and what is the hardest part?
C: The best part is that you get to race and represent your country, and be a member of the Australian Dolphins team, which has such a rich history. You get to travel around the world - I've been to nearly 30 different countries! I had to get a new passport recently, not because it expired but because it ran out of space - I had that many stamps! The hard things are... The early mornings? Fortunately we're not super early anymore but Bronte and I did 12 years of 5:00am in the water, which means getting out of bed at 4:30am or earlier, and we used to do that during school as well, so we trained before and after school. I think the hardest thing is that it's just a lot of work - there's no secret recipe or silver bullet.
B: The best thing is always travelling and the experiences you get. Anytime I think about complaining, I remember when I was seven, watching the Olympics and knowing that's what I wanted to do. You're living out your dream when you're standing behind the blocks. It doesn't always feel like that, when you're training and in the middle of the grind, and you wake up at 4:30am on a cold winter's morning, it's still dark outside, you have to go get in a pool, the heaters are broken, the pool's cold... There are some definite low points, but it's all worth it in the end!
KZ: How do you deal with nerves?
B: Everybody gets nerves and the way I like to think about nerves is that it means your body is ready to go. Nerves and excitement are actually quite a similar feeling. When you feel excited, your heart also races and you get butterflies in your stomach. It's not that different from feeling excited, and I try to flip it to realise that I'm actually excited about what I'm doing. It's good to take time and breathe a little bit, like in for four seconds, holding for four seconds, out for four seconds, then holding for four seconds - just like a simple box breath. That is a very good way to reset your nervous system and get everything to calm down. You can feel it as soon as you start to breathe, feel everything relax and let go. I also do a bit of meditation as well, make sure I meditate every day so that I'm getting the chance to reset or put myself back on a blank slate emotionally to bring everything back to a baseline level. There are a lot of things you can do, but probably the most important thing is realising that it's all part of it, and being nervous means you're ready to go, your body's ready to go, your mind's ready to go. There's something big coming up, something you care about, and being nervous is not a bad thing. It's a very good thing because it means it means your body is prepped and your minds prepped and it wants to do well.
KZ: Can you share any advice for K-Zoners who want to improve their skills?
B: To all K-Zoners, it's the little things you learn when you're young that put you in good stead. Not everyone pays attention to detail, so it's tiny but work on your streamline and underwater butterfly kick. Properly streamline off a wall – that's one hand on top of the other, thumbs locked around the other hand, make sure you're squeezing your ears in your streamline and doing five butterfly kicks off each wall. If you look at swim meets where people are younger, not everyone does that and it's honestly such a small thing, it doesn't actually take any energy, just mental presence. Think about it every day in training and when it comes to the race, it's automatic.
C: It's so simple and you see so many kids with their arms wide away from their ears, so you really want to squeeze your arm in close to your ears – it honestly makes the biggest difference!
KZ: In your new book, Sister Secrets, Cate tells a story about how she ate a lot of fast food after completing all her events at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games! What was the food you both couldn’t wait to eat after events in Tokyo?
C: I ate a lot at my first Olympics because there was a 24-hour free store in the dining hall. Sadly, that was not the case in Tokyo. We had to make do without it, but there were really yummy Japanese dumplings that you could load up guilt-free, and little tubs of ice cream in the dining hall, so that's probably what I hit up first thing after I finished.
B: There's always the pizza station as well, which is always nice - they did a great job this time and that's a nice thing to reward yourself with after your race. It was very different this time around, without the idea of like hanging out in the dining hall and stuff, just trying to eat as quickly as you could and get out of there.
KZ: You are both known internationally as incredible swimmers, but if you had to pick one other skill to be known for, what would it be?
B: I would like to be known for being good at pottery. I'm not great, but I'm getting there. I love making things out of clay; we did it when we were little kids, we did art class and then I had a big break from it and came back to it in the middle of lockdown. Learning how to make things again. I have made everything in my house that I eat off, drink from, look at or put flowers in - everything I've made. All my friends get clay gifts constantly, so that might be something I would like to be known for if I wasn't a swimmer. I don't have a studio or anything. It's just hand building, so I can do it on my counter, at the table, take it outside... You can do it anywhere.
C: I really enjoy photography! I wish I was better at it, and that’s something I might develop a bit more. I also really wish I could sing, that's a really nice skill to have. I'm completely tone deaf. Karaoke nights are not at the top of my list for a good night! If I could improve my photography or get better at singing, I would like to be known for those.
Tokyo Olympic Games: Bronte Campbell won gold in the Women’s 4x100m Freestyle Relay, and bronze in the Mixed 4x100m Medley Relay. Cate Campbell was a flagbearer for the Opening Ceremony alongside Patty Mills, and won gold in the Women’s 4x100m Freestyle Relay and Women’s 4x100m Medley Relay, and bronze in the Women’s 100m Freestyle.
Sister Secrets: Cate and Bronte’s new book, Sister Secrets, is on sale from November 16!
To read more of our interview with Cate and Bronte Campbell, grab the December 2021 issue of K-Zone, on sale now!