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Campbell gets to have her cake and eat it

MEET the new Cate Campbell.The one who celebrates her wins with late-night chocolate cake and thrives on the pressure that once left her a crumbling mess at major meets.This is not the Cate Campbell that was unable to deal with the suffocating pressure she felt heading into the Olympic Games as heavy favourite.POOL BREAK-UP: Emotions spill over for pairThat woman had been stuck in a kind of purgatory, reliving the events of that final over and over.For the past two years, thoughts of the Olympic final would come to Campbell every time she closed her eyes.But in just over 52 seconds on Friday night, she was able to put those thoughts finally, to bed.Campbell’s win in the 100m freestyle at the Pan Pacific championships in Tokyo almost two years to the day since her Rio disaster was the final step in a process that has brought her back to the sport refreshed and happy and ready to deal with the road to the 2020 Olympics.Campbell had already become the person she wanted to be.

Now aware that swimming alone does not define her, Campbell has been able to rediscover a love of the sport she’d lost before the Rio Games, while enjoying life outside the pool — travel, her own home and the odd reward, such as the slice of chocolate cake she earnt after posting the fastest relay split in history on the opening night of competition in Tokyo.In the pool, Campbell celebrated a successful, but soft, return to international competition at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in April, although she missed gold in the 100m freestyle after being touched out by sister Bronte in the blue riband race.The Pan Pacs always stood as the major test in her return to international swimming following the break she took after the Rio Olympics.Up against Olympic and world champion Manuel, who qualified fastest for the final, Campbell swam perhaps the most measured 100m of her career to finally convince herself she was back.“All of those things I’ve been working on have finally come to fruition in 52 seconds,” she said.“Not many people can say that months or years worth of work comes down to something that lasts less than a minute.“Can I say that I’m proud of myself? I’m really proud.“I’m really proud of the person I’ve become, the athlete that I am.”And pressure?“I want to make sure that I suck that up and I enjoy it because not many people get to experience this and I have to remember how lucky I am,” she said.For months now, Campbell has sounded like a motivational speaker, articulating the self-talk that has allowed her to return to the international stage.But even coach Simon Cusack conceded the road to the Olympics would be potholed if Campbell had not got “the monkey off her back”.“It was a beautiful moment for her, I think she slayed all of her dragons in 52 seconds,” he said.“It was great to be able to execute the perfect race under pressure against a good field — against the girl that won the gold in Rio — was fantastic for Cate and it’ll be a whole lot better from here on in now that she’s got the monkey off the back.“I think the beauty of (Friday) night is she swam to her potential on the night which is all any athlete wants to do and all a coach ever expects of them.”The expectation for a strong showing grew when Campbell swam the fastest relay split in history on the opening night of competition in Tokyo.“She’s grown a hell of a lot from her experiences in Rio, it was a tough time and a lot of people probably wouldn’t have got through it,” Cusack said.“It’s a real shot in the arm.“If (Friday) hadn’t gone to plan, the next two years would’ve been a battle.“But now it’ll be a lot more of a pleasant ride for her. It may be the last two years of her swimming career but she’s enjoying it so much that who knows, she might hang around longer.”

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