Cate’s Campbell’s Favourite Sporting Moments

From qualifying with her sister to watching a fellow athlete fly, this gold medal-winning swimmer and Quest ambassador shares the five sporting memories that have moved her the most. 

1. Always chase the big dreams 

At seven and nine, [my sister Bronte and I] used to sit in the back of the car on the way to swimming training and talk about all the things that we would do after we had been to a Games. Now, this seems like a far-fetched dream – for one person in a family to go to the Games, let alone two. And yet it became a reality at the 2012 Olympic swimming trials, in the 50 metres freestyle. 

Bronte and I had to come first and second in that event to qualify for the Games. I remember touching the wall, turning around, seeing a number one next to my name and a number two next to Bronte's name. It is the most amount of joy I have ever felt after any race, ever. We've now gone on and won gold medals together, we've broken world records together, but qualifying for those Games, realising the dream of that nine-year-old and seven-year-old girl, was so special and magical. And is still my absolute favourite moment from my whole career. 

One of the beautiful things about childhood is that children have the capacity to dream these incredible, big dreams. And it's often adults who give them a taste of realism, but might also squash the dream. Not once did my parents ever say to us, "Do you know how hard that's going to be? Do you know how unrealistic it is to go to a Games?" My mum simply smiled and said, "All right, I will support you." And she did. She drove us to training at 5:00 every morning. My dad sat next to the swimming pool for all our swimming carnivals. It was our dream, but we had them to support us. There was something so profound about never being told that we couldn't do it.

2. The power of role models 

One moment that really stands out for me was at the 2000 Sydney Games – Susie O'Neill winning the 200 metre freestyle. We all know her as Madame Butterfly, but when she won gold in that 200 metre freestyle, the pure joy that spread across her face when she saw that she had won touched something in me. She seemed to reach right through the TV screen and grabbed a hold of young Cate, and that's where my Olympic dream started.

3. Recognise true grit 

One of the growing movements is the Paralympic movement and seeing these incredible, inspirational athletes on our TVs performing feats just rivets me. One of my really close friends is [swimmer] Ellie Cole; she is one of the most beautiful, delightful people. She got to be the flag bearer for the closing ceremony at her last Paralympic Games in Tokyo 2021. I almost got a little bit teary seeing that announcement because I'd seen how hard she'd worked in the lead-up to that event, and I'd seen all the struggles that she'd had to overcome. Watching her close out those games as flag bearer for Australia is one of my favourite moments in sport. 

4. Joy always resonates 

Lots of people ask me what sport I would do if I wasn't a swimmer, and I have always thought about pole-vaulting. It's the closest you get to flying, when you have to launch yourself up over a bar that's five metres in the air. At the 2008 Games in Beijing, my first Games, I can remember watching Steve Hooker win the gold medal. He knew he had won the gold medal before he'd come back down to earth. He cleared the bar, cleared that gold medal height, and began celebrating before he'd even come down and landed on the mat. In those three seconds it took him to fall back down to earth, you could see the joy on his face. 

5. Do your best and you’ll always win

My favourite moment is not a gold medal and it's not a world record. And I have achieved both of those things at a Games. It is winning bronze in the 100 metre freestyle at the Tokyo 2021 Games. So much had gone into that race. I had to overcome so many obstacles. I woke up the morning of that race unable to turn my head. I spent hours on the physio table just to make it to the starting blocks. I remember diving in and being afraid that my neck would lock up and that I wouldn't be able to swim. But I made it through the start, which was the danger part. 

By the time I hit the wall, I knew I hadn't won because I was swimming right next to Emma McKeon, who won the gold medal in that event; I could see her just out of the corner of my eye, so I knew she was ahead of me. But as I hit the wall, I had this immense, profound sense of achievement because I knew that I had executed that race to the very best of my ability. So, I could turn around and see whatever was on the scoreboard and be okay with it. I turned around and I saw that I had won a bronze medal and I'd won it by 0.04 of a second.  

It wasn't gold, but it was my best, and it was my best when it counted. In the moment when the pressure was on, when my back was against the wall, I had delivered. And I remember going to the team area and sobbing to my coach saying, "I know I've only won bronze, but I feel like I've won gold." And I call that medal my rose-gold medal. 


Cate's journey through her favourite sporting moments reveals more than just her achievements; it showcases the profound joy, resilience, and inspiration that defines her career.

From the shared dream with her sister Bronte of qualifying for the Olympics to witnessing the triumphs of role models like Susie O'Neill and Ellie Cole, Campbell's memories are filled with emotional highs and deep admiration for her peers. Whether it’s the unfiltered joy of pole-vaulting champion Steve Hooker or her own hard-fought bronze medal in Tokyo, these moments encapsulate the essence of sport — where the pursuit of excellence, the overcoming of challenges, and the sheer delight of the journey are celebrated.

Cate’s reflections remind us of all of the power of dreams, the importance of role models, and the true meaning of personal victory.


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