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Episode 10 · 46 minutes
Bronte Campbell (Olympic Gold Medalist in Swimming)
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In this episode, we chat with Olympic gold medalist Bronte Campbell. She shares her inspiring sporting journey with us, emphasizing the importance of embracing vulnerability, maintaining a positive mindset, and finding balance between professional ambition and personal interests. Her insights offer actionable advice for anyone looking to achieve their goals while staying true to themselves and finding joy in the journey. This episode is a beautiful blend of vulnerability, inspiration, and practical wisdom from a superstar athlete who sees her journey as part of a broader exploration of life's possibilities.

Key Takeaways

  • Embrace Your Passions and Obsessions: Bronte's journey underscores the importance of following your passions, no matter how obsessive they may seem. Identify what you're passionate about and pursue it wholeheartedly. Don't shy away from dedicating yourself to what you love, as it could lead to fulfilling your dreams.

  • Don’t Discount the Power of a Positive Mindset: Cultivate a positive mindset before tackling challenging tasks. A simple smile or a positive affirmation can significantly impact your performance and outlook.

  • Balance Your Ambitions with Hobbies: Make time for hobbies and interests outside your professional goals. These activities are not just leisure; they're investments in your overall well-being and success.

  • There’s Value in Vulnerability: Don't hide your struggles. Sharing your experiences with vulnerability can lead to greater support, reduce stigma, and help others facing similar challenges.

  • You Are Not Your Achievements: Achieving your goals, like winning Olympic gold, doesn't fundamentally change who you are. Keep your achievements in perspective. Celebrate your successes but remain grounded, knowing that they're steps in your life's journey, not your entire identity.

  • Learn From Failure and Feedback: Bronte's career teaches us that failure and negative feedback are opportunities for growth. She says to view setbacks and criticism as chances to learn and improve. Be open to change and proactive in seeking solutions to enhance your personal and professional development.

  • Look to the Future with Openness: Approach life's transitions with openness and curiosity. Allow yourself the time to explore different paths and find what truly resonates with you, without rushing into the next big thing.

Who is Bronte Campbell

Bronte Campbell is an Australian competitive swimmer known for her achievements as a dual Olympic gold-medal winner and world champion. Beyond her achievements in the pool, Bronte is an entrepreneur – founding PB With Bronte – a swim gear e-commerce brand.

She’s also recently joined career discovery and learning platform Wandr as a celebrity mentor.

Links & Social Media

Tap Into Your Entrepreneurial Potential with Online Courses Australia

Inspired by Bronte’s remarkable journey? Embrace your passions and dive into new possibilities with an OCA’s range of online courses.

Whether you're keen to begin a new career, or are simply looking to expand your knowledge, it's never too late to start your own journey of discovery and achievement.

With a wide range of courses designed to fit into your life, no matter how busy you are, OCA makes learning accessible, flexible, and engaging.

Don't let another moment pass by—dive in and explore what you love. Start your journey today and see where your passions can take you!

Listen on:

[00:00:04.200] - Speaker 2

Welcome to the Learning Without Limits interview series for Online Courses Australia. I'm your host, Melanie Bernicke. This episode, I chat to the amazing Bronte Campbell, Olympic gold medalist, superstar human being. We talk about vulnerability, why it's a strength and not a weakness. We chat the pool, we chat future aspirations, what it takes to be an athlete in today's day and It really is a beautiful, open, vulnerable, inspiring story. I can't wait for you to watch it and let us know what you think. Join us now, catch Brunti's story. Hey, Brunti.

[00:00:40.900] - Speaker 1

Hello, Mel. How are you?

[00:00:42.740] - Speaker 2

Very, very good. Thank you so much for joining our lovely Learning Without Limits podcast.

[00:00:47.200] - Speaker 1

Thank you for having me. Very happy to be here.

[00:00:49.220] - Speaker 2

I'm excited. I want to dive straight into the pool arena and talk about when was that light-bulb moment that you said, I want to be an Olympic swimmer.

[00:01:01.030] - Speaker 1

For me, I always love the water and the love of swimming has been passed down to me through the women in my family. My grandma used to do lessons in her backyard pool. My mum taught me to swim and used to teach at the high school. But I was living in Malawi in Africa and I watched the 2000 Olympics. I knew we were going to move to Australia the next year. I remember watching it. I was watching how well the Australian swimmers were doing. I watched Grand Hack at Winners 1500. I was like, great. I'm moving to Australia. That's what I'm going to do. I don't know what it was about it, but something in it was like-It was a magical moment. That's what you want to do. As soon as I moved to Australia, we joined a swim club before I'd even found a school that I was going to. We lived just down the road from it. I used to walk myself there every morning. Mum wouldn't even wake up. I just wake up and take myself for training.How old were you? Seven. It's just walked down. I used to walk down, so funny, with my cap and goggles already on in my togs with my tail wrapped around me.

[00:01:59.210] - Speaker 1

But I go an hour early to watch the big kids train because I thought it would make me a better swim. I was obsessed. It was all I wanted. Then counted the years up and thought, Okay, when's the first Olympics I can go to? Okay, 2012, I'll be 17 then. That's where I'm aiming for. So right from when I was... That was in 2001. I was obsessed with it.

[00:02:22.700] - Speaker 2

I love that. I like that feeling obsessed with something because there's just so much love for it and there's so much passion. You just I want every little inch of your body to be immersed in it all the time.

[00:02:35.470] - Speaker 1

I try to remember that when it gets... Because it gets harder as you get older. Obviously, that pure love that you have when you're a kid. I mean, everyone knows what they're obsessed with. Everyone went through a barbie phase or they went through a phase where they were just obsessed with that one shirt that they just wouldn't take off. There's pure full felt obsessions that you have when you're a kid and mine just happened to be swimming. Then when I'm struggling with it 20 years down this track being like, Wow, this is difficult. I'm just like, Just remember, the little seven-year-old, this is all she could have ever dreamt of and more. Just tap back into that just for a second and be a little bit grateful for where you've actually got.

[00:03:14.930] - Speaker 2

I really like that because it's nice to be able to, I guess, have the awareness to look back and to go, Come on, that's what you wanted. We're almost there. Come on, keep going.

[00:03:24.980] - Speaker 1

Every single time before I race, when I stand by in the blocks, I It always smile. Everyone does their own little warm-up thing. And just before I get in, I always make sure I smile because I'm like, You got to tap back into that right before you get in. It does amazing things for your endocrine profile anyway, which is good for you.

[00:03:43.620] - Speaker 2

Just the smiling in general.

[00:03:44.840] - Speaker 1

Yeah, just smiling. What that does is then decreases your cortisol, increases serotonin. You don't even have to mean it. In that moment, before you get on the block, it feels like you're going to throw up your heart's beating so fast. You're going to take a breath, smile and be like, I am happy to be here. Not I feel like I'm going to...

[00:04:05.640] - Speaker 2

Get all right about it.

[00:04:07.740] - Speaker 1

I feel like I'm going to pass out.

[00:04:09.910] - Speaker 2

Did someone teach you that, or was that just something that you chose to do?

[00:04:15.310] - Speaker 1

I chose to do it and then later on have learnt the science behind it and why it's so useful. And I've done it since a young age. My coach always told me to enjoy what I was doing anyway, and that really stuck with me. And then some of my competitors, the girls have been racing for a long time. They're like, it freaks me out when they look over and you're just about to jump in and they're feeling super nervous. They look over, they're grinning behind the what's ready to go.

[00:04:40.780] - Speaker 2

Does she know something I don't know? Like, what's going on here? Because I guess when people have that serious look. They're in this moment of, holy crap, this is a big, scary moment. But to see it with joy and then to know that your whole body functions better in that space.

[00:04:57.580] - Speaker 1

Yeah. It's just being who you are. Some people like it to be serious, and that's who they are. But it's not me. So why am I pretending to be a serious person behind the blocks? And that's not who I am normally.

[00:05:10.010] - Speaker 2

Because that would make you scared, being someone that you're not.

[00:05:12.540] - Speaker 1

Exactly. It's just not. You want to be yourself in the arena. So it's a really small thing that I do. But it's like my little tradition before I race.

[00:05:22.060] - Speaker 2

Do you do that in other moments in your life now as well? When you're finding you might be having a day or something like that, and you can just get, I'm just going to smile.

[00:05:30.600] - Speaker 1

When things go wrong, I do tend to laugh at it a little bit more than I probably should. It's all true. Everything's tragic in the moment, but there's very few things that in a week's time are still going to be as upsetting as they were in the moment. It definitely helps dealing with adversity. And my younger brother has cerebral palsy. He's had a very challenging life, and it's been very challenging for a lot of my family to look after him, but always dealt with dealt with those hardships with humour. So it's something I learned from that family environment.

[00:06:04.890] - Speaker 2

That's really nice. And does he find the joy in just the everyday as well? And it's like the simple things just when you're living with cerebral palsy.

[00:06:14.180] - Speaker 1

Yeah, my brother has quite severe cerebral palsy, so he is nonverbal and functions to the level about nine month old. So there's so much that he can't do. But like you said, even within that, he finds so much joy. He's one of the happiest people I've ever met. And he has to have everything done for him, every single thing. He can't eat by himself, he can't move himself around. He can't even tell you if he needs something. And he just sits there patiently and he's a beautiful human. So it definitely teaches you that I'd come in from a training session and I'd be upsext. I didn't swim as fast as I wanted to swim. And then Hamish was there at the door smiling and happy to see that you're home. So it really helps you appreciate the simple things, knowing that Yeah, I've got no real right to be that unhappy.

[00:07:03.640] - Speaker 2

How do you compartmentalise that in your mind? Say, Okay, this is something that I do, but it doesn't define me.

[00:07:09.920] - Speaker 1

It is really difficult. I'm not going to say I've completely mastered it. I don't even know if I'll know how much I've mastered it until I decide to retire. I think when you finally take a step away, that's when you'll really know how well you've done it. Definitely, there's been times in my career where I haven't done it very well, and it happens very slowly because 2016 is a really good example. Leading in, I started to get injured, and I couldn't do a lot of things that I would find just defining myself, hanging out with my friends and doing some hobbies. I was learning guitar at the time and doing all these fun things, so things that define yourself outside the pool. But once I got injured, I didn't have the time to do it. And even things like learning guitar, I couldn't turn my head, so I couldn't look at the fret. So it seems so simple, but those things slowly It really gets stripped away. And then you don't realise until you're well down in the spiral that you've become a little bit too isolated and the balance that you had is gone.

[00:08:11.600] - Speaker 1

So I've seen that happen to myself before. And now very consciously just make sure that I've got things outside, things that I know that I absolutely love, picking up hobbies, making sure that I'm investing in those, and knowing that that's an investment of my time, that's not wasting my time. Yeah, it's sustained success as well. I mean, I've been on the swimming team for 10 years, and the amount that I've learned in that time, the experience that I've gained, makes me a far better swimmer at the end of it than I should be physically. Physically, I was at my best five years ago before I got injured. But the experience that I've had is what pulls me through in big races. And so it actually ends up leading to more success because it's sustainable. The way I was probably operating in 2015, 2016 was not sustainable. We've seen this in swimming a lot. The average swimmer's lifespan is three or four years on the team. Which is not very long to make your mark. Yeah. And we think every Olympics is four years. Exactly.

[00:09:21.730] - Speaker 2

So you, what if you got one shot?

[00:09:24.070] - Speaker 1

Yeah. There was three of us at Tokyo who were there in 2012. So the longer you can make that lifespan, the more people have the option to be using their experiences. They've learned so much, and now they get to use it. So that longevity piece is where the balance really comes in as well for me.

[00:09:47.020] - Speaker 2

Is that something within the training that you find that the coaches are starting to implement with people, or is that something that you've just noticed on your own or with your other team members? Or is that something within the education piece, like the mindset stuff, that they're educating you to have that longevity in your career?

[00:10:06.220] - Speaker 1

It's something I want to do way more in this space because you start swimming so young. Most people on the team started swimming when they were 10 or younger. And then the hours that you train and that tunnel vision, the laser focus that everyone has, most swimmers don't really take breaks. When I had three months off in 2018, and that was the longest period I'd had off since I was seven years old. But it's not as abnormal. It's just normal within the swimming world. But that didn't come from pressure from the outside. That came from me wanting to succeed so much that I didn't want to take a break because I was afraid I'd lose fitness and wasn't sure if I could get back after three months. And of course, I could get back after three months. It was hard work, but of course you can. So it's definitely a space that I'm really interested in. And I'm lucky. My personal coach has always just given me what I need and sees the benefit of it. But it is an education piece, even for the athletes, to not be afraid to let go for a second.

[00:11:16.980] - Speaker 1

And you can take two weeks to yourself. And it will serve you better in a year's time than it will if you just kept on pushing.

[00:11:26.220] - Speaker 2

Yeah. And you look at people like Ash Barties. She left tennis altogether, went and played cricket, and then she came back, and it was just bang, and it just switched into gear. But just having that trust to be able to step away when you need and then to be able to come back when you need if you feel it's right. If everything's not sinking up, it's not a fun place to be if this isn't working with this.

[00:11:51.230] - Speaker 1

I've never been in what anyone would call a real job, but I imagine it's pretty much the same. When you're committed to training, you've got to be there for that length of But if you're not able to give 100% to that because things outside aren't working, then it's not very effective time use. But you're still there for that length of time. So the time commitment doesn't change, but the outcome becomes drastically different. I really hear what you're saying. It's all got to be lined up.

[00:12:20.150] - Speaker 2

Yeah, very much so. That brings me to, I was reading in your book. I loved the book. I think I sent you a picture of all the post-it notes. I'll put it up later. I've got all the post-it notes because I like all the little quotes. There was one that really resonated with me. It's like, motivation is not a feeling, it's an action. To me, when you have those little and I was like, I love this. It was one of the big ones that I highlighted. Then I wrote it on something and I stick stuff on my fridge all the time. How have you used that? And how do you use that in life and in swimming?

[00:12:53.870] - Speaker 1

It's really flattering that you're making poster notes in my book. That makes me so happy. For For me, it's always been people always ask, how do you stay motivated? I don't feel motivated to do this. I think there's maybe a perception that I'm rolling out of bed at 5:00 AM every morning being like, I'm ready to go. I'm stoked to be going to the pool this morning, which is just not how it is. Most of the time, you're so tired and so sore, and you just want to roll over and go back to sleep. Sometimes when the alarm goes off, I'm like, I cannot face going to training. I cannot face the two hours in the pool. But it's like, Okay, I don't need to do two hours in the pool. All I need to do is roll over and put my feet on the floor. It's like, Okay, that one I can do. You do that. Okay, great. Now all I need to do is get breakfast. Great, I've done that. And then slowly as you get through it, it's almost like this little... You break it down, you get a little bit of motivation from the satisfaction of just having done the thing.

[00:13:54.470] - Speaker 1

And before you know, you're at the end of the training session. And normally by the time you're within the warm-up, you're ready to go and ready to give 100% again. But I think there's a perception that you can wait around, waiting to feel motivated to do something. If I waited around to feel motivated to go to training, I probably wouldn't go very often.

[00:14:14.650] - Speaker 2

Yeah, I think that's just such wise words, and I think that's what it really is. It's like, and what you're saying is breaking it down bit by bit, whatever your goal is, just that one foot in front of the other, and don't have to think too much further ahead. Those actions create that momentum and that movement and that energy starts to switch on. You said it just starts to snowball, and it's just that one little thing that you, whether you want to achieve whatever it is in life, maybe just that one step. Then you find if you take a step forward and the momentum is there, the other foot moves anyway.

[00:14:49.180] - Speaker 1

I'm lucky in swimming and that it's so clear what you have to do to be successful. The path is laid out and you just commit to each little step. But my coach was always like, Well, How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time, just one at a time, one day at a time. Tick it off, tick it off, tick it off, tick every little bit off. And before you know it, you're way further down the track than you thought you were.

[00:15:11.270] - Speaker 2

As a professional athlete, I'm assuming you've got a specialist for just about everything. When it comes to hearing and receiving and taking in all the advice, what's been your way of viewing all that when you've got information coming at you everywhere? When do you know how to use your voice in all of this?

[00:15:29.340] - Speaker 1

Yeah, it's It's a really good question because it's been a bit of a journey throughout my swimming career to get to a point where you trust your voice because you're taught from a very young age, you're trained to do what you're told. The coach gives you instruction and you do it, and then you see yourself doing well because of that. So it's ingrained in you to listen to other people. And it wasn't until my shoulder got really bad in 2016, I did eight months of just doing what everybody told me. And there was a lot of different I'm being put in there. And even if it wasn't really helping, my shoulder would feel sore after doing some of my exercises. But I was like, No, this is what someone's told me to do. This is the plan. I got to stick to it. I've got to do it. And just head down, blinkers on, go ahead. And it wasn't until after then the 2016 Olympics that I looked back and I was like, That wasn't helpful. I need to make sure that things are working for me and everyone can have their input, but just take a little bit your ownership over it.

[00:16:32.480] - Speaker 1

Because at the end of the day, you're in an individual sport. There's so many people that get you behind the blocks. But then you walk out there alone and you race alone, you touch the wall, you're seen on the TV alone, and you wear the result alone. No one else wears the result like you do. Obviously, it reflects on everyone else around you, but realistically, you're the one who has to wear it. So you got to be so happy with everything that you did along the way. And there was things like, I don't want to upset that person by not following their advice. It's like, that person is not going to be the person in the pool at the end of the day. They're not going to be wearing the result. So you better make sure that you are happy with it. And that was a really, really big lesson for me. And now I love listening to people's advice. I love listening to everything people have to say. And I'll try everything once, but I'm a lot quicker on pulling the pin when things aren't working. It was a really, really good lesson, which hopefully will serve me well for the rest of my life.

[00:17:32.930] - Speaker 2

Yeah, but I think people find their voice at different times, but knowing that it did you a disservice in that moment by not speaking up earlier and you're like, Okay, well, these guys are the experts, but this is my body. This is what I need to explain. It's not being mean to them. It's just literally going, Guys, this is not helping me. I'm in pain here.

[00:17:54.410] - Speaker 1

Yeah. Once I had that conversation, I was like, This is not working. This bit's hurting. Then we found a different way to make things happen. It was that simple.

[00:18:05.240] - Speaker 2

Yeah. Isn't that funny? What you think could have been just that big confrontational moment, and it actually wasn't. It was just more the fear of having that conversation and having your voice in that moment.

[00:18:17.010] - Speaker 1

Yeah. You build things up in your head and then it comes through and you're like, oh, that was really easy.

[00:18:20.620] - Speaker 2

Yeah. Never done that before. I remember back in 2015, you really hit the nail on the head that year. You went the 50 metre freestyle and the 100 metre at the same event, were you just going, yes, this box takes, that box ticked, winning this, winning that. And when you have worked since you were seven years of age to get to the top of your mountain, what would you say? Was it everything that you dreamed of in that minute? How does that feel when you finally go, Yeah?

[00:18:54.050] - Speaker 1

No, it's not everything you've ever dreamed of. That's probably the biggest learning from my swimming career is I won the 15th of the World Championships. It was the first time individually that I'd won gold medals. I did PBs in both of those events. I was the fourth woman in history to ever do that. It was huge. But I just got there, did it, and then was like, okay, great, onto the next thing. I had two weeks break and I went on to the next thing and I went straight back into training because the Olympics were the next year. Ended up getting injured, battled through eight months of injury, came forth at the Olympics 5.05 a year later. And wish I'd taken the time to stop and just smell the roses just a little bit and just realised that it was a really big achievement. And then even when I won in Rio in 2016, the relay team won and broke the world record on the first night. Okay, great. Tick the box, move on to the next thing. Because I still had to compete later in the week, again. So stopping and taking stock while you're in the moment is something I learned from that.

[00:20:04.480] - Speaker 1

And in 2021, 2020, when the relay on the first day won and broke the world record, I made sure all of us, all of the girls, including Meg, who had this is her first Olympics ever. We all took a moment. I was like, we all got to be present. When we stand on the block, everybody stand on the podium, everyone look at those Olympic rings. Take a breath and remember where you are.

[00:20:29.860] - Speaker 2

Yeah, it's important.

[00:20:31.630] - Speaker 1

It is important. And hopefully, I might do Paris, but the next generation is coming through and you want to pass that onto them so they don't have to make that mistake. And then the other thing I've learnt from it is that It doesn't matter if you get to the top of your mountain, you come back and the world just keeps on rolling and they don't care. And in a year's time, people don't remember. And what seems so important to you and so big, it just doesn't It doesn't matter to everybody else that much. And that's what we call the Olympic come down, where either when you've achieved everything you ever wanted, you come back and it's still a let down because you thought it was going to be different from what it was.

[00:21:13.920] - Speaker 2

Did you expect I think you would feel like a change inside of you at that moment?

[00:21:18.640] - Speaker 1

You feel like if you get an Olympic gold medal, it's going to fulfil all your dreams, and it fulfils just your swimming dreams, and you still feel exactly the same. You always feel like, Oh, then I'll I feel like an Olympic gold medalist. But you don't. You just feel like Brunty who's standing on the top of the podium.

[00:21:36.310] - Speaker 2

Yeah, and then you're back to training.

[00:21:37.430] - Speaker 1

And then you're back to training, back to your everyday life, back to your uni assignments, back to whatever unhappiness that you had before. It doesn't really make any material difference. And so I mean, what to learn from that is just so cliché, but enjoying the journey, finding joy in that because the result is not an end in itself. Even my biggest success is always just a step along the journey for the whole rest of my life. It's all just little parts in it. And no one success is all defining, which then when I flip it is really positive because then no one defeat is all defining either. That's really nice. Yeah. It's just a little bit more balanced. But it took me a while to get there.

[00:22:19.370] - Speaker 2

Yeah, but I think that's part of growing up, and that's the emotional growth that you do. And I think being in such a high pressure environment where there's so much expectation that you put on yourself and that other people or society might put on you because if you go to an Olympics like, oh, she's going to win. We want Australia to win. Hearing all that noise, you can't. I'm assuming that you just can't switch out of it all the time. And learning how to put those boundaries in place. It takes time. And that's just your own personal growth. And you don't know until you know those things. You think, okay, this is going to change my life being a gold medalist. And then it doesn't. So you don't I don't know that until that comes to pass. And no one's probably given you the heads up and go, babe, just letting you know.

[00:23:05.940] - Speaker 1

Well, the funny thing is other athletes have told me this before because I speak to a lot of older athletes. They were like, oh, I came back from winning my gold medals. I felt really lost. And I was like, That's ridiculous. That won't happen to me.

[00:23:20.000] - Speaker 2


[00:23:21.050] - Speaker 1

And then I call them up and be like, Yeah, you're right.

[00:23:25.200] - Speaker 2

How did you find your way back? Yeah, exactly. It's nice that you find you've Are you quite a good support network with other athletes as well, going through that, or is it quite separate because you've all got different trainers and coaches? Or do you have that support within your circles in the industry?

[00:23:42.840] - Speaker 1

That's what I want to build on more, is Getting that support, not only with the current swimmers, but with the alumni, so the ones that have moved on because they've got so much more perspective. But I found it within the swimming community, but also when you go to the Olympics, you get to meet all these amazing athletes from different sports. And that's where I've really found it useful because you feel like swimming is such a unique experience. And then you talk to someone who runs and someone who does long jump and someone who's a shooter, and you realise that you all have very similar experiences. You're not so alone. And then I can learn from them as well. And even netball, like Gabby Simpson, who has been the captain of the Diamonds, she's incredible. And we sit down and we just talk about, Okay, how are we going to make our teams work? I learned so much from her. She's incredible. That extended network as well has been incredible.

[00:24:38.620] - Speaker 2

Is that something you think you might look at doing? Is it creating that support network within your community just to ensure healthy mindset and the sustainability in people's careers. Is that something that you're quite passionate about in building?

[00:24:52.080] - Speaker 1

I'm actually President of our Australian Swimmers Association. Oh, wow.

[00:24:57.730] - Speaker 2

I didn't know that one.

[00:24:59.680] - Speaker 1

That's something we're looking to build right now. That's something I definitely feel passionately about. I think I'm in a pretty unique space to be able to help out in that because I've got the perspective of a swimmer, and now we can take that and build that into wellbeing that works exactly for a swimmer, an alumni network that works, mentoring the way a swimmer needs it to work. Yeah. And that's something I want to build in the next few years.

[00:25:27.580] - Speaker 2

I really like that. I think when you're looking at Obviously, you're not retiring yet, but you're also looking at what can I do for something that I love that grows everybody, not just the individual. It's not just one race. It's growing the community. So it's got that health and mindset built into it and that support that people need to feel when they're going through those lost moments rather than going, who do I call? What do I do? Just knowing that you've got this and you've already got that relationship dynamic in place for that support.

[00:26:01.530] - Speaker 1

It's exactly what you said. Setting it up before it's a crisis. When you're in crisis, I've seen it. You're so hard to reach. You often won't reach out. If you don't have the support before you're there, It's very hard to set it up in the moment. And I've been in that position. I've seen other athletes in that position where the well-being officer from swimming Australia might reach out to them and they're like, I don't want to talk to anybody. You can't hear in those moments. I don't want to talk to any person, but they might talk to their mentor, they might talk to their friends, they might talk to another swimmer. So having multiple avenues so that when the crisis hits, one of them will be used. That's all we're trying to do.

[00:26:45.810] - Speaker 2

I really like that you're wanting to give back to something that's probably given you so much. I think it's a nice place to be in the world. Again, that balance, what you're saying before, it reiterates itself in different shapes and forms in career and life. Exactly.

[00:27:00.100] - Speaker 1

I actually thought I've been part of the leadership group and then part of ASA, which was slightly different. But taking on both of those roles, I thought a lot before I did them that they would take away from my performance because it is a lot of work on top of being a swimmer already.

[00:27:17.190] - Speaker 2

From what you're saying, your training schedule is already insane. It's a lot of swimming.

[00:27:22.790] - Speaker 1

There's a lot of swimming in it. But what I've actually found is that it gives me a little bit more contentment being on the team. So when you're on the team, sometimes you feel from yourself the pressure to perform so that you're contributing to the team and your performance is the only way that you can contribute. By the time I step on the team, having been an athlete leader and shaped the culture of the team and shaped the values and done a lot of work on the behaviours and done the team activities and the inductions and all that, by the time I step on the team, I'm like, I'm already contributing and my performance is on top of that. There's another way that I can contribute here, and it takes the pressure away from competing for me, which is not what I expected. I I expected it to be a distraction, and I was like, I'll do it for a year. If I find it too distracting, I'll stop. It was surprising how helpful it was for me.

[00:28:08.190] - Speaker 2

Isn't that interesting? Yeah. Again, like taking that step back a little bit to be able to move forward and just seeing it differently. But amazing that that energy is what gives you, and then it adds that joy into the swimming again. Something that I did remember from reading your book as well, fear and doubt. It's a natural emotion. It's part of every day. It's part of who we are. And most of us try and block it out because it's a scary feeling. How do you use it or translate it into something that's positive when you know you're going to feel that before a big event or however you feel it in your life?

[00:28:45.900] - Speaker 1

Fear and doubt. When I started swimming, I would look at Olympians on TV and I'd watch them walk out behind the blocks, whether it was running, swimming, whatever it was, and they just looked completely invincible. I was like, Oh, can't wait till I get to that place where I'm not nervous before I race, where I'm not scared. And it'll all be great when I get to the Olympics because they don't look like they've got any worries in the world. And then two years after I made my first team, one of the younger swimmers came up to me and they were like, How do you keep it together and not be nervous before you race? You look so composed. I was like, I'm terrified. So it's all the fronts, basically. And everybody feels fear. Everybody goes through doubt. The times when it's really gotten to me is when I was doubting things with my injury and wasn't sure that I was doing the right things, wasn't sure that I was doing enough work, but I just tamped it down. I was like, No, I can't deal with doubt. You've got to have 100% confidence, otherwise you're not going to succeed, rather than listening to what the doubt was telling me.

[00:29:54.290] - Speaker 1

Tuning into it and being like, Okay, great. Why am I experiencing doubt? What is it that I need to change in order to make this a little bit better? That's what I've done since then. And I'm so proud that my fastest ever race has been while I've been injured. I've been injured for half of my career. And to have my best race during injury was amazing. That was 2018 at the Comm Games. It was an incredible moment for me because during those two years, I'd been tuning into like, okay, great. Every time I felt doubt about something, What do I need to do about this? Even when it was personal doubt of, I don't think I can do this anymore. I don't think I can be good enough while injured. Okay, what do I need to do about that? Great. Go see a human behaviourologist. Go see a psychologist. Go see a different physio. Seek other avenues and do the actual actions that are going to help with the doubt, not just sit on it and try to pretend it's not there.

[00:30:54.210] - Speaker 2

I think that's great advice because you quite often you think, Oh, fear, oh, doubt. They're bad things, but they're asking you to take a look at something. If you change the perspective on it and then use it to create action, and you're listening to yourself. It's coming up because it's going, Hey, someone listen. But again, when you don't listen, that builds and builds and builds and builds until I call it my steam pot. Then all of a sudden this just flips the lid, you explode. Like we're saying, once you get past that, it's really hard to come back. But if you listen to each little bit, okay, yeah, that's valid for me. You know what? Okay, that's just a thought because I'm in pain today. Or actually, no, I need to do something about it. But allowing that stuff to come up.

[00:31:36.110] - Speaker 1

Intuitively, we're pretty smart, but we just don't listen to ourselves very often.

[00:31:42.250] - Speaker 2

Yeah, it's telling you all the time, the body is going, Hey, hello, I'm here.

[00:31:47.410] - Speaker 1

I'm one of the people who I hold emotions in my body, but I don't feel them that strongly. If someone told me, When was the last time you were upset or anxious or any of that? I could be like, I don't feel upset or I'm fine. Don't worry about it. And then my boyfriend's like, You grind your teeth at night. So there's something going on and I hold it in my neck and I hold it in my shoulders.

[00:32:07.980] - Speaker 2

Yeah, the tension is physically there, whether you're choosing to acknowledge it.

[00:32:12.410] - Speaker 1

It has a physical effect. Emotion I have a physical effect. I mean, everyone's like, Oh, I'm giving myself a stomach also with stress. You're like, You actually are. You can do that. You can make yourself unhealthy in your body just with your thoughts. That's insane.

[00:32:29.150] - Speaker 2

It's really quite That's quite frightening. Do you find that within your industry as well? Where you think you've had to be strong, but when you've been vulnerable, it opens more doors?

[00:32:39.060] - Speaker 1

Definitely. It is that weird thing where you think being strong is having on a façade and nothing's wrong with me ever and never admitting pain and not admitting doubt, not admitting fear. All of that is a strong way to be, but it's definitely harder to be vulnerable, especially within the team. I've seen it within the swimming group when I started talking about injury or even my sister, who still struggles with depression now, but had it pretty badly in 2020 after the Olympics was cancelled. And her talking about that, suddenly it gives everyone else the permission to talk about it as well. Talking about injury gives everyone else the permission to talk about injury. And the first time you stand up and do it is incredibly difficult and so much harder than pretending that nothing's wrong and so much harder than being closed. I used to be a very closed off person, but learning to be open has been incredible. It's been very rewarding as well because you can see how good it is for yourself and how good it is for just anyone who's around you.

[00:33:53.000] - Speaker 2

Other people, when they see someone that they respect and look up to, like a gold medalist, it's so inspiring. But to see the humanity behind the person as well, really, it gives people that freedom. Exactly what you said, just to, It's okay to feel all this, and I can still succeed.

[00:34:11.250] - Speaker 1

Yeah. You don't have to be perfect or You can still have doubt and succeed. You can still be in a bad place and succeed. Not everything in your life has to be perfect for success to also be possible for you.

[00:34:28.620] - Speaker 2

Yeah, I think that's super important. When it comes to the media, how has that been for you? Because they can be your best friend, and they can be your worst enemy, depending on how they feel when they wake up in the morning, or based on potentially how you swam that day. How do you keep true to yourself and keep going on your path without hearing all of that?

[00:34:51.670] - Speaker 1

I don't read or watch, or listen to anything.Wow.Yeah. That's how.

[00:34:57.410] - Speaker 2

Did you in the beginning?

[00:34:58.590] - Speaker 1

No, I It always didn't do it. But it can be difficult to tune out because sometimes you might turn on the TV, and especially when the Olympics are on, you turn it on and somewhere's just everywhere. So it can be difficult, but take a step back from it. Way harder with social media. But once again, you can do that. You can turn off comments on your thing. You can make sure that you're not posting. If you don't want to be on the platform, you can set up pre-planned posts. You can organise for other people to post for and send them what you want them to say just so you're not even entering that realm. There's so many ways to get around it.

[00:35:35.390] - Speaker 2

You find that's what's really being able to… You can have a presence so people can share in what you're doing, but without having to engage in that back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, and on 24/7.

[00:35:48.720] - Speaker 1

Yeah, you need to have space for yourself. It's nice to share things with people. Social media gets a really bad rap, but it can be a very good connexion tool. But it's I don't want to hear what other people are saying while I'm competing. I don't want to hear what people who don't know me's opinion of me is. It's not useful to me, both good and bad. If I read the good things, I have to read the bad things. And the good things are lovely, but they're almost as inaccurate because they don't actually know me. And then you get caught up and like, Oh, you're such a great swimmer. And I love watching you swim. And you get a hundred of those comments, and suddenly you're really identified with yourself as a swimmer because that's who you're getting praise for. It stops you from getting praise for who you actually are. Having your actual friends and the actual people that know you, feeling the love from them, which is a real love, is a lot better than someone loving the ideal self that gets put forward online. The media can be incredibly difficult, but I literally just stay away from all of it.

[00:36:56.190] - Speaker 2

That's great advice because you hear people, even with social media, being bullied, but they're constantly engaging in that. When you're putting the energy into that and then you're getting energy back, you're playing in that realm. But to be able to do the disconnect from it and step away and know what's reality for you, it's fantastic that you've learned to be able to do that.

[00:37:17.920] - Speaker 1

I think I'm lucky I didn't grow up with social media. I probably was in grade 12 or just finished school when Facebook, Instagram became more of a big thing. I think it's probably way harder to do when you grow up with it. When you're younger. Yeah, and it's so much part of your life.

[00:37:34.540] - Speaker 2

That's how you connect.

[00:37:35.090] - Speaker 1

Exactly. It's really tricky. I just look at it, I'm like, Oh, if I ever have kids, that's going to be very hard.

[00:37:43.470] - Speaker 2

Yeah, I much prefer this interaction. Nice conversation, chat. Normally, there's food in front of me at the same time. I think there's just so much joy in this conversation. When you feel that you're stepping away at some point from swimming, what are your aspirations? What Is there anything that you think, apart from all your amazing hobbies and things, is there any career things that you would like to go, Yeah, okay, I'm going to put my hand up for that one?

[00:38:09.750] - Speaker 1

It's a good question. You get asked a lot like, Oh, what are you up to next? What are you going to do when you finish?

[00:38:14.930] - Speaker 2

I'm going to take a break? I don't know.

[00:38:16.840] - Speaker 1

I will take a break. I don't know exactly. I just finished my business degree.

[00:38:21.940] - Speaker 2

Amazing. Is that what you've been doing at Uni? Yes. Congratulations.

[00:38:24.770] - Speaker 1

Thank you. It's a three-year degree. It took me eight years, but at least I did it. I got my certificate in the mail at the same time that I got my world record certificate, and I was like, way more stoked about the degree. But now that I've done that, I'm doing some work experience at Enston Young and just seeing what that's like. For me, it's just looking at what is actually out there because I've been in such a bubble for so long. I went straight from school to being a professional athlete. So just surveying the landscape a little bit. I think I've got a pretty good idea of what I enjoy. It's just figuring out what job-In within those industries. Yeah, what job picks up on those little bits.

[00:39:12.430] - Speaker 2

How exciting as well. A new adventure, so to speak. But again, you've got this nice space where you're not forcing anything. You're just going to see what really sits well with you.

[00:39:22.910] - Speaker 1

I think there's this... I don't know. There's a temptation to just rush Gosh, straight into the next thing because we're so used to having a goal and a plan and knowing how to get there. I just want to take the time to make sure I'm picking the right path before I go headlong down it. It's exciting for me. I know it's daunting I mean, I even see it in my sister. She finds it daunting not having a plan. I just love that I don't have a plan and you just never know what's going to happen. How good? For the first time in my life, I don't know what's going to happen. That's exciting. It is exciting. It has to be exciting. And I'm not completely done with swimming yet, but I know that when I step away and talking to retired athletes helps with this, step away and you can just take a breath for a second and then jump into the next thing.

[00:40:18.580] - Speaker 2

I like that. I think that's some really good advice for everyone in life. Just take a moment and breathe. You heard it here first.

[00:40:27.660] - Speaker 1

We've invented breathing in this podcast. How good? Yeah.

[00:40:30.560] - Speaker 2

I know this dress, I'm like, oh, can I buy it anymore? Before we finish up with the interview, I really want to hit you with some fun quick fire questions. All right. And yeah, so these are just fast paced fun. Don't think too hard. Just throw it out there and see what comes out.

[00:40:48.480] - Speaker 1

Now you're about to see how slowly my mind works, but go. Let's go.

[00:40:52.210] - Speaker 2

Well, this is like a little competition. I'm just like, Oh, I get excited. It's a bit ridiculous. I feel like a child. I think I said this earlier today. I'm like, Yay, it's Big fire questions. I don't know why I find it fun, but I don't know. All right. Three words to best describe yourself. Passionate, tall, and probably just I'm quite earnest.

[00:41:15.830] - Speaker 1

I try not to be very, very earnest.

[00:41:19.670] - Speaker 2

Not a bad character to have, honey. Not a bad one at all. Best advice you've ever been given and by whom?

[00:41:29.170] - Speaker 1

My coach He coached me since I was seven, so from when I was seven to 27. And he just tells me, It's on race day. It doesn't matter what you feel. It only matters what you do. And the flip side of that is you judge yourself on your intentions and you judge other people on their actions. So just remembering both sides of that, that you may be feeling something inside. It's what you do that counts, but it counts towards other people. And when you look at someone and they do something to you, you judge them straight on their actions, but you judge yourself on what you meant to happen. So, yeah, that's been something both in and out of the pool that I use a lot.

[00:42:10.720] - Speaker 2

Favourite quote or mantra?

[00:42:13.140] - Speaker 1

Rodol Kipling's If. If you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two impostors both the same. Love that. Had that written on my wall. Yeah, the whole poem is great, but that line in particular.

[00:42:23.470] - Speaker 2

Yeah, I like it. I like it a lot. Favourite swim moment of all time.

[00:42:27.350] - Speaker 1

My favourite moment, not my biggest achievement, it was when I qualified for the team for the first time and I touched the wall at trials and I turned around, there's a number two next to my name, number one and number two, go to the Olympics. I turned around and saw it and it's like that first moment when that little seven-year-old of me was just screaming and jumping up and down. That's still my favourite moment.

[00:42:48.870] - Speaker 2

Oh, I love that. And then you love your hobbies. So what's your favourite hobby?

[00:42:53.760] - Speaker 1

I do love my hobbies. I love my pottery. I actually have clay all through my fingers. I'm not sure if you ever look at that. I love my pottery, love my indoor plants. Just the ability to slow down in those is so good for me. Oh, good.

[00:43:08.770] - Speaker 2

Top three books.

[00:43:10.630] - Speaker 1

That's really hard. I love reading. I always have a book on the go. Probably the book I read the most, I read Great Gatsby almost every year.

[00:43:16.930] - Speaker 2


[00:43:17.150] - Speaker 1

Just love it. Just love it? Love it. I've read all the Harry Potter's multiple times. Absolutely love them. I don't know. It's just hard to pick one book, isn't it? Can I say my book is one of my favourite books.

[00:43:31.460] - Speaker 2

Yes, because after reading it, it's definitely one of mine. There's so many great takeaways in it. Definitely, if you haven't read it, Sisters, it's amazing. I loved it. Hang on one second. I really just got to show you this. I love this. This is how much of a nerd I am. When I read books, I have post-it notes broken up as to key moments. I literally was reading this on a rainy Sunday morning, and I just kept going. I was like, Oh, I need more pink I need more pink. There's so many great takeaways in here for mindset. It's just beautiful. It's your words. Yeah, so amazing. I loved it.

[00:44:11.470] - Speaker 1

Thank you. I think my favourite just because I've never written a book before and it was exciting. I had to do it with my big sister.

[00:44:18.110] - Speaker 2

That's really cool.

[00:44:19.380] - Speaker 1

I'll check onto the list just because.

[00:44:21.060] - Speaker 2

You have to. If I write a book, I'd be like, Hello. Who inspires you?

[00:44:26.230] - Speaker 1

Good question. So many people inspire me. Probably one of the people that inspires me the most is my partner, who I've actually known my whole life. But his ability to just be an incredibly positive and open person consistently, no matter what. And he's probably had the biggest influence on my life.

[00:44:47.770] - Speaker 2

That's a really nice thing to say about a partner. If you could have a chat with your younger self and give us some advice, what would it be?

[00:44:56.510] - Speaker 1

If I could chat with a little Bronzer, I'd just be like, just calm down just for a second. You don't have to take everything so seriously. Just take a breath. Just literally just that. I was just such a little tightly wound little thing that was just always after everything. It's like, that's great. But just learn how to take a breath. Yeah.

[00:45:17.680] - Speaker 2

Nice words. If you were to study something into the future, what might it be?

[00:45:25.230] - Speaker 1

I'm super interested in psychology. That would be really interesting to study. But if I was going to do something I'm not really useful, I mean, I probably should study tech, shouldn't I? Because I'm absolutely hopeless. A few of my friends have learned coding. I'm like, I don't even know how to restart my computer. So I should probably study that.

[00:45:41.440] - Speaker 2

We were actually doing something yesterday. We're trying to get the earphones to work in pair, and I just didn't know how to do it. And I was like, there's a button on it. I was like, there's not a button on it. I look at it every day. How do people know? How do they know?

[00:45:53.170] - Speaker 1

How do they know these things? I don't know how they know it. I think I just need a basic course of this is how you work technology 101.

[00:46:03.440] - Speaker 2

Technology for dummies. That'd be for me anyway.

[00:46:07.180] - Speaker 1

Technology for dummies is definitely for me.

[00:46:08.710] - Speaker 2

The 101 in technology. Thank you so much for joining us, Bronnie. This has been such a beautiful insight into your world and into the mindset behind what it takes to create a successful long career in the swimming pool. It's amazing.

[00:46:25.520] - Speaker 1

Oh, thank you. Thanks so much for having me. I loved it.

[00:46:28.440] - Speaker 2

Thanks for joining me for this episode Learning Without Limits interview series for Online Courses Australia. I'm Melanie Bernicke. Catch you next time.

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