MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) - Two years ago Libby Trickett’s depression was so bad she could barely drag herself out of bed before she rediscovered her love of swimming and a desire for more Olympic medals.
Standing below a big countdown board showing seven days to go before London 2012, the 27-year-old Australian could not have entertained the possibility of adding to her six Olympic medals in the dark days following her retirement in late 2009.
“It’s been such a crazy journey and certainly in 2010 I couldn’t have imagined going to London,” the triple gold medallist told Reuters in an interview on Friday at the Manchester Aquatics Centre where her team have been training.
”Swimming was so beyond my mind at that point...I couldn’t see a way out of where I was at that time.
“It got as bad as I didn’t want to get out of bed some days, you don’t enjoy anything really, you don’t really see the point in doing anything because you lack any sort of drive or joy or lightness. It just all felt very dark and heavy.”
A gold medallist in the 100 butterfly in Beijing four years ago, she will not get the chance to defend that title as she is only competing in the 4x100 freestyle.
Her battle with depression has provided her with a new perspective that she believes will help her adjust to competing as part of a team rather than as an individual.
“That whole journey allows me to understand myself better and I think in turn makes you able to be more compassionate towards others,” said Trickett, whose effervescent smile betrays none of her demons.
”I‘m still competitive but I‘m less aggressive about it I guess. I feel like I can support people in their journey but as well take care of what I need to do to the best of my ability so I think it’s a really good marriage in that respect.
“I‘m excited to be able to race in that heat team and just make sure our girls are in that final.”
She is enjoying embarking on her third Olympics with a more laid back approach even if the desire to succeed has not waned.
“You have an intensity when you are younger that you kind of can’t see out of, you have the blinkers on ... and you kind of can’t see the broader spectrum that is life,” she said.
“That’s probably the coolest thing about the position I‘m in now. I have a much more worldly view of who I am and what I do and how as awesome as being at the Olympics is, it’s not everything.”
While there are no plans to hang up her goggles again anytime soon, Trickett thinks she will be better equipped to deal with it second time round.
“I wasn’t ready to retire at that point (in 2009) but I couldn’t see myself swimming on, if that makes any sense,” she said.
”I know that next time I will be in a better position because when I retire it will be for the right reasons and not just because I‘m kind of fed up with the sport or feel overwhelmed by the whole thing.
“At this point I can see myself swimming on after London. I have no plans to retire and I‘m still very excited by the possibility of swimming on.”
Making a comeback is easier said than done as her compatriot Ian Thorpe discovered when the five-times Olympic champion failed to qualify for this year’s Games after coming out of retirement.
Trickett put her successful return down to her break being less than a year compared to Thorpe’s six-year absence.
“I‘m lucky, I‘m a sprinter and I didn’t spend quite as much time out of the water and I think even I probably missed the window by four or five weeks,” she said.
“It’s what’s exciting about the comeback journey, you lay yourself on the line, you make yourself very vulnerable but it’s exciting and challenging.”
Reporting by Sonia Oxley; Editing by Alan Baldwin