In the end, it took barely 52 seconds for Cate Campbell to finally end two years of self doubt.
Campbell, 26, said she would no longer be haunted by the ghosts of Rio after clocking an astonishing 52.03 seconds – the second fastest time in history – to claim 100m freestyle gold at the Pan Pacs in Tokyo.
One day shy of the second anniversary of her Rio meltdown, Campbell on Friday overpowered the woman who dethroned her in 2016 – Olympic champion Simone Manuel of the United States – to just fall short of Swede Sarah Sjostrom’s 51.71 world record.
Campbell finished more than half a second ahead of world champion Manuel (52.66) while Canada’s rising star Taylor Ruck claimed bronze.
It was a stunning finish – but Campbell’s journey since Rio has been even more impressive.
— Cate Campbell (@catecamp) August 10, 2018
The former world champion almost walked away from the sport when the hot favourite suffered a shock sixth placing in the Rio 100m final, prompting her to take 2017 off to recover.
It appears she has returned with a vengeance in an ominous sign for her Tokyo 2020 rivals.
“Yes. Finally,” an emotional Campbell said of her breakthrough win.
“It shows I can stand up when it counts and perform when it counts. All of those things I’ve been working on have finally come to fruition in 52 seconds. ”
“Not many people can say months or years worth of work comes down to less than a minute.”
Campbell’s stunning personal best time was 0.03 faster than the now defunct 100m world record she set just weeks before her Rio heartache.
It was also a new national and Commonwealth record. ”I’m thrilled with that. I executed a smart race, which is what I wanted to do,” she said.
“I swam a personal best, these don’t come around very often at my age. I couldn’t be happier.”
Remarkably it came barely 24 hours after Campbell clocked the fastest woman’s split in history (50.93 seconds) to inspire Australia’s shock 4x100m mixed medley relay win over the United States in Tokyo.
The pressure is now on for Campbell to back it up at Tokyo 2020 – and it seems she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I know that win, lose I can live with whatever the outcome is,” she said.
“It’s about getting out there and enjoying the race. ”
“Moments like that make you love the sport and make those hard training sessions worthwhile. ”
“I want to make sure I soak it up and enjoy it because not many people get to experience this and I have to remember how lucky I am.”