Climbing the Olympic mountain | Ella's Blog

Published 6 August 2016 (AEDT) | Author Ella Walter

Ella Walter – girlfriend of Mack Horton (swimming)

It has been eye opening getting to know the incredible people who make it possible for Mack to pursue what he loves.

Every individual athlete competing at Rio will have had vastly different journeys and challenges that they have embraced in order to get to represent their country. I am so excited to watch these athletes in their element, enjoying the greatest sporting moments of their lives.

Their will to prepare, rather than their will to win, is what ensures they are all in good stead for the weeks to come. 

I have recently been thinking about the support from different groups of people throughout an Olympic journey in relation to a mountain (I love to ski!). To reach the summit - the Olympic games - is an incredible feat, one that only a very particular human is capable of.

For the purposes of this analogy, athletes grow and develop at the base of the mountain for years. Throughout these years, while dreaming of the summit, athletes are effectively fertilised and sheltered by all the things and people that make them who they are. For Mack, this includes family, friends, training buddies including fellow Olympian Kotuku Ngawati, photography, four-wheel driving, awesome homemade food, insane boxing sessions with me and a bit of University here and there. These day-to-day activities are filled with a sense of home and belonging and importantly, hilarity. It all helps to keep the mountain stable, upright and standing strong.

As difficult conditions prevail and the ‘sting’ of training takes its toll, Mack, and I’m sure many others have a huge appreciation for the weekly massages and physio appointments that allow them to train consistently. Inevitably, athletes will need some guidance through difficult terrain on the mountain. Australian legends such as Nicole Livingstone, Chief Executive Officer for Melbourne Vicentre Swimming Club and John Bertrand, President of Swimming Australia, have both been invaluable sources of wisdom and inspiration for Mack throughout the years.

As the summit looms closer, it is a united team on and around pool deck, who work to analyse and improve every aspect of technique and speed in the water. The brilliant Elaine Tor and John Toscone are so dedicated to providing the latest insight into performance for all the athletes they work with. A respected and talented coach is essential throughout an athlete’s entire journey, especially in the last stages of climbing the summit. Craig Jackson, Mack’s coach of 8 years, is certainly that. Together, they endure challenges, dance moments and many hours of hard work! Each athlete will reach the summit using his or her own coping mechanisms.

Taking the chair lift up is not an option.

The summit requires athletes to be comfortable in the pain cave. The years of training have been physically and mentally gruelling. However, this is what lights the fire within these men and women. The natural grit and determination is within them all.

Days out from the Olympics, nothing more can be done to prepare these athletes; they are as ready as they will ever be.

All Australian Swimmers are currently at Auburn University in Alabama, enjoying the sunshine before making their way to Rio. Reports from friends have been filled with excitement. The other night following dinner, all the current athletes received individual letters from former Olympic swimmers. This was an incredible thoughtful initiative from Daniel Kowalski and the Australian Swimmers Association, one I know all the athletes cherish.

I am looking forward to being in the same time zone as Mack within a week. The 6am FaceTime calls from Auburn make it difficult to string a sentence together! While the homeless of Melbourne occupy me during my psychiatric University placement, Mack is being immersed in an unbelievable Olympic vibe. The comparisons are considerable! Life in Melbourne continues for us all, work, planning, packing, nerves…are all consuming!

A number of times I have asked Mack if he will get the tattoo of the Olympic rings…he consistently says no…but I will have to wait and see…

I can’t wait to land in Rio and soak up the Olympic atmosphere.

Mack Horton

Mack Horton



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