MH: Rio didn’t turn out quite as you may have hoped. How have you handled the disappointment?
CM: It was pretty rough. Of course, I’m disappointed with how it played out. But I can look back and see there are good parts to it too. The experience has made me more motivated. I saw other people achieve great things and I want to be in their position and do what they do.
Having Kyle (Chalmers) there winning the 100m made it a lot easier. I was feeling my own swim and my own outcome but I could also feel his success and was inspired by what he achieved.
This season, I’d got to a point where I’d thought there wasn’t much room for improvement. But now, in hindsight, there are so many little areas for me to work on and improve. That’s a good thing I guess.
When you last spoke to MH, you quoted the physicist Niels Bohr: “An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes which can be made in a very narrow field.” Does that ring all the more true now?
In Rio I went through so many different experiences and it’s definitely helped me to grow as a swimmer. To be “an expert” you’ve got to know how to win, but you’ve also got to know how to lose and how to reconstruct yourself when that happens and do better.
I look to two guys who’ve done just that. Take Michael Phelps… whenever he’s come out and got second or got fourth, he’s just gone home and done what he needed to do in order to come back and just obliterate it the next time.
Another great example would be Connor McGregor. He came out and he lost against Nate Diaz. After the defeat, he accepted it immediately, he went back into training and he’s come out bigger and better than ever. It’s much more human somehow to see someone invest so much, trip up and then pick themselves up and go again.
You’re 22 years old and you had the pressure of an entire nation on your shoulders in Rio. How did you cope with the stress?
The main technique I use is to look at things from a different perspective. Studying physics you get a different viewpoint on the world and the universe. You get to see things differently.
To calm myself down, I’d imagine aliens coming along during a World Championships final and just observing the race. We have so much emotional and personal investment in that one race and it means so much to get into that pool and swim as fast as you can.
But from the aliens' point of view they just see this intelligent life-form, jumping into a hole in the ground full of water and then going up and down until we stop and … that’s it. They’d envision it as being so pointless in terms of the whole scope of civilisation and society. They would just think it's utterly absurd.
Taking that type of perspective, reduces the personal load that you put on yourself and helps you to see things in the bigger scheme of things. The same thing applies in other areas of life, say if you’ve bombed out in an exam or a business meeting. Sometimes you need to take a step back. You may be passionate about swimming but it’s not life-ending. The world still goes on.
You’re here today at Flemington as a Myer fashion ambassador ahead of the Spring Racing Carnival. But it’s not easy for someone with a swimmer’s build to find a suit that fits. What tips do you have on buying a suit for guys who aren’t exactly “sample size”?
You’re right. Swimmers have upside-down Dorito bodies with that muscular shoulder look. There’s no way around it – you’ve got to go and get properly measured up.
There’s a quote I heard once – “you’re either in your bed or in your clothes so you may as well invest in both of them”. A suit is the perfect example because it’s the pinnacle of formal attire and you have to invest in getting it right. The best thing to do is either to go made-to-measure or take your suit to a tailor afterwards and get it adjusted so it fits you properly.