Olympic hopeful Tamsin Cook finds her happy place back in the pool after career-threatening car crash
The water Tamsin Cook once feared to the point of complete retreat is again her happy place.
Sitting in her rear-ended car on the Perth freeway in late 2017, the Olympic silver medallist from a year earlier started to realise that her sore neck was superficial compared to the deeper mental anguish which had slowly crept in.
But when she competes in the 400m freestyle at the Olympic trials in Adelaide tomorrow, her two-year hiatus from the sport — and the angst that consumed her — will be a distant memory.
“It’s a challenge again to see how fast I can swim with the work that I’ve done,” Cook said.
“I came to realise that the injury wasn’t the reason I ended up having the time off. I needed the mental break from the sport as well. It was a wake-up call for me that I wasn’t as devastated as I would have been two years earlier.
“I knew I needed time away to mentally refresh and reconsider what my goals were.”
Cook said maturing with age and sport psychology sessions had helped her better deal with the anxiety and nerves that plagued the earlier part of her career. Her desire to return to elite training had come “organically” after booking lane sessions at Craigie and Scarborough in the wake of the initial coronavirus lockdown and then ultimately rejoining with coach Mick Palfrey.
Though she had not yet returned to her personal-best times in the pool, she was already in the ballpark just 10 months into her return and that gave her great encouragement for what lay ahead. The fact that she had competed at the elite Olympic level previously, including swimming a relay leg against US superstar Kate Ledecky, was also a pillar of mental strength.
“To have come so close to my personal-best times, I’m pretty happy with that so far, and I just want to swim as fast as I can,” the 22-year-old said.
“I’m really happy with how far I’ve come and this week will be about seeing if I can improve on what I’ve already done. Then whatever happens, happens, but I know that when I’m physically fit and in the right head space I’m a decent racer.
“I’ve still got age on my side. I’m feeling my age in a good way ... it’s quite nice to have a few more years under my belt and to have had that time away from the sport.”
She will also swim in the 200m and 100m events at the trials.
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