Campbell turns her Olympic torch towards Paris
Australian swimming's golden girl Cate Campbell is already thinking about extending her career until the 2024 Paris Olympics amid fears that the Tokyo Olympics could be postponed or cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
In an exclusive interview with The Sunday Telegraph, the double Olympic gold medallist revealed she would recommit to another four years if the biggest sports event in the world is called off.
"In my head I think that's something that I'd really like to do," she said.
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"Going to one Olympics is a pretty big achievement but the fact that I'm now looking at going to four is something that I'm incredibly proud of.
"It's something that only one other Australian swimmer has done, in Leisel Jones, so I'd kind of like to achieve that, even if that meant deferring that for four years."
As things stand, the Tokyo Olympics are still going ahead from July but the International Olympic Committee is facing increasing pressure to cancel or postpone them for a year in the hope that the COVID-19 crisis is over by then.
Swimming Australia, USA Swimming and UK Athletics are among the growing list of sporting federations already calling for a rethink and the mutiny is growing, not only because of the health risk but also for the integrity of the competition, which has already been compromised because athletes can't prepare properly while under lockdown.
Campbell is still in full training in case Tokyo does go ahead this year but has already hatched a contingency plan if there is a 12-month delay, agreeing with her coach Simon Cusack to take an immediate break to freshen her body and then plunge back into work to peak for 2021.
"I haven't had a straightforward career by any stretch of the imagination so every setback that I've ever encountered that can either be the end or you can focus on the next step to get around that obstacle," she said.
"At the moment the Olympics is still on and that's still the end goal so if you encounter a roadblock or a speed bump or an obstacle you just think 'OK, what's my next step to get to that end goal'.
"Sometimes you have to step sideways, sometimes you have to step backwards but you still have that one direction and that one focus, which is part of the athlete mentality and the athlete psyche.
"Athletes are actually really well equipped to deal with problems like this because just about everyone's encountered a few in their professional careers.
"I've been doing this a really long time. Things might have thrown me before but if you're in an environment that doesn't panic and looks for creative answers and solutions instead of balking at them that kind of runs off you as well."
Already one of the sport's all-time greats with multiple Olympic, world championship and Commonwealth Games medals, the prospect of putting herself through another four years of training would require an astonishing commitment.
Campbell made her Olympic debut at Beijing in 2008 and will be 32 by the time Paris rolls around so if she does go on until 2024, she first wants to take an extended break to start laying the foundations for retirement before getting back in the water.
"I am getting older in life and at some point I need to consider what life looks like outside of the swimming pool," she said.
"That's a very difficult thing to do while you're a full-time swimmer and a full time athlete, so, hypothetically, I would try and figure that out and once I got a little bit of a handle on that I'd come back and try to train for it."
Originally published as Campbell turns her Olympic torch towards Paris