Cate Campbell fails in bid to swim at Paris Olympics

Steve Larkin |

Cate Campbell starts her 100m freestyle heat in the Australian  selection trials at  Brisbane.
Cate Campbell starts her 100m freestyle heat in the Australian selection trials at Brisbane.

Cate Campbell wished for the fairytale ending, but says her illustrious Olympic career finishes in peace and with love.

The four-time gold medallist has failed in her bid to become the first Australian to swim at five Olympics.

“By God, I gave it a really good crack,” Campbell said.

On a Saturday night when pop star turned swimmer Cody Simpson also missed selection for the Paris Olympics, Campbell was seventh in the women’s 50m freestyle at Australia’s trials in Brisbane.

Campbell, after missing qualifying for the 100m freestyle final by one-hundredth of a second on Friday night, ends her Olympic career with four gold, one silver and three bronze medals.

“I had hoped for the fairytale ending,” the 32-year-old said.

“And it’s what I had worked for and what I felt I was capable of, and unfortunately my body just said no.

“I came out and I gave it everything. I wasn’t going to throw in the towel, pardon the pun … unfortunately it wasn’t meant to be.”

Campbell, who was Australia’s joint flag-bearer at the Tokyo Olympics of 2021, raced her first swim competition more than 20 years ago at the Brisbane Aquatic Centre.

The full stop to her storied career came at the same pool.

“I started in the sport because I was a little girl who loved swimming, I did, I loved it more than anything else,” she said.

“And over the years that love has been tried and tested and that relationship has been pushed to its absolute limits and its breaking point.

“I walked out tonight and I remembered that little girl who walked out behind those blocks for the first time and I remembered the joy and the love that I have for this sport.

“And I can leave the pool with peace and with love, which is a beautiful place to be.”

Simpson, a junior swimmer who became a global teen pop sensation, then returned to the pool four years ago, finished fifth in the men’s 100m butterfly.

“It’s bitter-sweet,” Simpson said.

“I came a lot further in the last four years than perhaps I could have bargained for.”

Simpson will now return to the entertainment industry.

“The discipline and resilience and perseverance that swimming has again instilled in me is something that I’m really excited to implement in my future endeavours,” he said.

Campbell and Simpson’s selection misses came as Australia named a 41-strong swim team featuring 22 Olympic debutants to race at the Paris pool.

Freestyle sprinter Cameron McEvoy, aged 30, will become the first Australian man to swim at four Olympics.

Australia’s most successful Olympian, Emma McKeon, will seek to add to her 11 career medals – five gold, two silver and four bronze – at her fourth Games.

Cate Campbell’s sister Bronte will also swim at a fourth Olympics on a team featuring a batch of gold-medal favourites.

Ariarne Titmus, the reigning Olympic champion and world record-holder in both the 200m and 400m freestyle, tops the list along with Kaylee McKeown.

McKeown, who holds word records and Olympic crowns over backstroke’s 100m and 200m, has added the 200m individual medley to her Paris program.

McKeown or Titmus, who also swims the 800m freestyle, could become the first Australian to win three individual golds at a single Games.

At the Tokyo Olympics three years ago, Australia’s swimmers collected nine gold, three silver and eight bronze medals – the nation’s best haul at the pool.

The Dolphins carry the bulk of Australia’s hopes for a successful campaign in Paris: swimmers have won 71 of the nation’s 167 gold medals at the  Olympics.