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Nov 26 - Dec 8, 2019
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Talented Aussie sisters make quite a splash

Cate and Bronte Campbell, who have been making waves in the pool, are always pushing each other to the limits.
Sisters Bronte Cate Campbell After A Warm Down Session In The Pool At The Hamad Aquatic Centre
Sisters Bronte, left, and Cate Campbell after a warm-down session in the pool at the Hamad Aquatic Centre. IQ Photo: Vinod Divakaran

After a hard day’s competition during the FINA World Cup at the Hamad Aquatic Centre, two women swimmers were warming down by doing multiple laps across the facility’s diving pool.

They joked around, mock raced one another and had a familial vibe going. They were Cate and Bronte Campbell, who made history at the 2016 Rio Olympics by becoming the first Australian siblings to stand together on the podium at the Games.

They won gold in 4x100M freestyle relay, in world record time, to make their dream come true. Four years earlier, at ’12 London, they had become the first sisters from that country since ’72 Munich to be a part of the same swimming team.

Now, standing on the cusp of the ’20 Tokyo Olympic Games, Cate recalled the Olympic experience.

“I’d won relay gold in London, but the Rio triumph is more special because I got to do it with Bronte. We’d been going to watch the Olympics together since we were nine and seven years old. We couldn’t have scripted the Rio story better even if we tried,” said 27-year-old Cate, who won gold in 50M freestyle and 4x100M mixed relay in Doha.

Bronte, 25, agreed with her older sister.

“It was our longest dream to win an Olympic medal together. So it was an indescribable feeling to finally do it. We may’ve not realised it then, but when I look at that medal now, that’s when things start to sink in,” said Bronte, who was part of the gold-medal winning mixed relay team in Doha.

The sisters said Tokyo was always at the back of their minds and that they were cautiously optimistic of making the cut.

“Australia has such a rich Olympic history in swimming and we want to do our best in Tokyo. But getting there isn’t easy as there’s a qualification tournament at home. But having won relay gold at the FINA World Championships in Gwangju, South Korea, recently, I think we’re in a good place,” Cate said.

Cate Bronte Medal Ceremony In Doha
The Campbell sisters Cate, third from left, and Bronte, fourth left, after a medal ceremony in Doha. Photo: FINA World Cup Media

“The Olympics is the pinnacle of our sport and I always dream about Tokyo. While the FINA World Cup meets are fun, the Olympics is the real goal. We’re always focused on that,” chimed in Bronte.

Cate and Bronte have two younger sisters — Jessica and Abigail — and a brother, Hamish. Being part of a big family has taught them to be independent. Sibling rivalry went out of the window a long time ago, said Bronte.

“There’s hardly any sibling rivalry left between us. Now I compete against her in the same discipline and with her in relays. I’m really happy about how Cate has done this year, especially at the FINA World Cup series,” said the younger Campbell, referring to her sister’s overall title win, which is all but assured in Doha.

Cate said she felt having a younger sister in the sport was always advantageous.

“I wouldn’t be as good as I’m and Bronte wouldn’t have been as good as she’s if we didn’t train and push each other every single day. If I’m having a bad day, she easily lifts me to her level. The reverse holds true as well. I couldn’t have done it without Bronte,” said Cate.

Also a poet, Bronte pens a few lines before each major tournament and reads it loud to her team-mates. It has become almost a tradition now and according to insiders, Aussie swimmers look forward to it. Bronte chose to laugh it away.

“I like poetry and write a few lines once in a while, but I don’t know if it makes me a poet. I’m not published yet, but maybe one day. If my poems get to inspire the team, then I’m all the more happy,” she said.

Cate, in full ‘big sister’ mode, fake complained from the sidelines.

“Whenever she writes poems, I always get a sneak peak before the others. She’s very talented, but to this day, she hasn’t written a poem for me,” Cate said, in mock anger.

The sisters watch each other’s backs inside the swimming pool and outside it. Last November, Cate was diagnosed with skin cancer and Bronte immediately took charge.

“I’ve a very supportive family and we’re always there for one another. Bronte stood by my side, constantly encouraging me and cheering me up. She was a huge inspiration and it helped me get through the ordeal and return to active sport after surgery,” Cate signed off.