Siren’s new Deakin intern Georgia Dunne dips her toe in the water with our My Favourite Sporting Moment series, another moment from the 2016 Olympics.
At the age of 15, I had been swimming for nearly my whole life, and had been competing since I was about nine. Needless to say, swimming was ingrained in my life from a very young age, however watching swimming was not. I had mostly approached sport with the idea that I loved playing it but not watching it, since participation in sport was a major requirement needed to maintain my sporting interest. This changed, however, with the arrival of the 2016 Rio Olympics.
The 2016 Olympics were really the first that I’d ever been actively invested in. I was interested in actually keeping up with the events and medal tallies rather than merely watching the Opening Ceremony and calling it a day like I used to when I was younger. Despite being a Year 10 student at the time, I spent every waking hour checking the tallies of medals awarded to each country. I spent most of my classes covertly playing basketball games and swimming events on silent in the corner of my laptop screen while also attempting to pay attention to my educators. Our favourite teachers at school would realise that there was no point in trying to get us to pay attention to a lesson about ‘setting goals’ if there was a basketball game that the Aussies were competing in, and instead displayed the event on the big screen at the front of the room while we completed worksheets or mathematical equations.
One of the most memorable events of the Rio Olympics—for me at least—would be the women’s 4x100m freestyle relay, where Australians Emma McKeon, Brittany Elmslie, Bronte Campbell and Cate Campbell sent adrenaline racing through my veins as they fought for the Olympic title against the United States’ team for a thrilling three-and-a-half minutes. I had a habit of perching myself on the very edge of the couch in our lounge room when watching any kind of adrenaline-inducing event, and the night of the women’s freestyle relay was no different. Almost falling off the end of the chaise with eyes glued to the television screen, I had no idea what I was about to witness.
The beep sounded, and the girls took off. Emma McKeon in Lane 4 for the Aussies made a good start, calmly gliding through the water while keeping up with America’s Simone Manuel. She tumble-turned beautifully, making her way back towards Brittany Elmslie. The second leg had my heart pumping in my head and my leg nervously bouncing. The US were in the lead, and the gap between Elmslie and the US girl was growing, but Elmslie’s technique continued to be immaculate. I was thinking in the back of my mind about how my coach would sometimes tell me after a swim meet that he could tell when I was panicking in a race, because I’d begin to lose my technique. It was riveting watching these women swim with perfect technique, a detail I continued to study throughout the swimming events.
The Americans were ahead of the World Record time, and I was beginning to yell at the screen. “Come on, girls!” The changeover into the third leg had me growing in confidence. Bronte Campbell was in the water next. In she dived, slicing through the water at incredible pace, closing the gap between the American opposition within 50m. By this time, I was manically shouting at the television. Bronte was a powerhouse. The US was still in the lead, but only just. Back Bronte came, pushing ahead of the US and the World Record as she finished her leg.
Then it was Cate Campbell’s turn. Although I hadn’t watched a lot of swimming back then, of course I’d heard of World Record holder Cate Campbell, and now I was watching her in action. I could barely hear the television over my heartbeat, the sound of blood rushing in my head, and my own screaming. “Let’s GO, Cate! Bring it home!” Bronte had won a lead for the Australians, but was it enough?
My doubt was soon demolished as Cate stretched out, way ahead of the other lanes and the World Record. Dominating the race, she was a whole body ahead of the US, and brought it home for the Aussies, leaving me jumping up and down at home. I almost felt as if I’d just watched that incredible moment in person, celebrating with the rest of the screaming crowd in Rio. Feeling like I was a part of a whole country of proud Australians watching the girls bring home the second gold medal on the first night of swimming at the 2016 Olympics was beyond what I could’ve imagined experiencing from watching an event on TV.
Although I was already a die-hard fan of swimming, watching the women’s 4x100m freestyle relay cemented my love for the sport, showing what swimming was like in the big leagues. Witnessing Emma McKeon, Brittany Elmslie, Bronte Campbell and Cate Campbell power through the relay like the champions they are sent chills through me, and reminded me of exactly why I loved swimming so much. To know that starting out behind doesn’t mean you’ll stay behind, the blissful feeling of gliding through the water, the strong drive of competitiveness that surfaces when competing, and the exhausted but elated sensation of hitting the wall at the end and finishing the race. And although it’s not a vital part of loving the sport, the euphoria that can come with winning isn’t a bad feeling either.