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Shane Gould

'Swimming is in my bones'

Shane Gould
Video: 3 minutes 48 seconds

Shane Gould, Australian champion and Olympic gold medallist talks about her passion for swimming.

This video was produced with funds donated by Tim Fairfax AC.

Well I'm studying a PhD at the moment about the culture of swimming in Australia. Swimming seems to be part of the fabric of my life, so I'm not just an ex-athlete, an ex-swimmer, former swimmer, former Olympian. I am a swimmer like these folk in the background here.

When I was young, fifteen at the Olympic games and Australian of the year when I was sixteen, I was sort of in the vanguard of those athletes who were having to learn to deal with being an athlete as a celebrity. Fortunately I had really good instincts that I paid attention to. When I felt incompetent at the extra things I was being asked to do ... I loved the training. I loved the competition. I could have continued on that for a long time.

I chose not to go down the celebrity route. It just wasn't me. I think celebrity... The life of a celebrity, it takes the life... It sucks the life out of you. You have to serve that identity. You have to really work on it, and for an athlete, it can be really distracting. People talk about the weight of success, and like I said, I like to do things well. I felt really dorky when I couldn't converse with adults. What sixteen year old in 1972 could converse with adults? It was very confusing, but I was able to make sense of it enough as a sixteen and seventeen year old, to be able to say, "Look. I can't do this job really well without training, without education, without age, so I'll call it quits here. I did a good job. I think I'll move on to the next adventure."

My study is about what people like about swimming, what they don't like about swimming, if they can swim, if they were exes. It's in rivers, the sea, and in swimming pools, too. I'm finding out a lot of really interesting things that we make presumptions about swimming. I think it's really, really interesting to me having traveled a lot around Australia. Probably seen about sixty or seventy swimming pools and about thirty or so swimming natural water places to swim in.

Swimming wasn't just for when I was young or that shaped me and framed me, but it was the actual swimming actions, being in the water and enjoying that myself and seeing other people like that, too. This is where it comes back to that idea that swimming has been the fabric of my life, so it's not just being the Olympic champion or the Australian of the year or as the result of that, or the sports woman of the year. It's just in the bones. It's in my fiber. It's my cells to understand why people like swimming. How do they swim? How can they swim better whether it be to perform fast in a race or to perform so that it's a pleasure, not a difficulty. 

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