Home' The Canberra Times : FEMME 2011 Contents - SPECIAL SUPPLEMENT - THE CANBERRA TIMES - MARCH 8, 2011 - 15
A CELEBRATION OF INSPIRATIONAL WOMEN
After Delhi triumph,
it's London calling
Alicia Coutts is in the media spotlight.
By Jon Tuxworth
''I don't know the key to success, but the
key to failure is trying to please
That's one of many inspirational
quotes that adorn the walls of
the Australian Institute of Sport
It's advice that champion swimmer
Alicia Coutts plans to adopt as she
attempts to build on her Commonwealth
Coutts shot into the Australian sporting
psyche by winning five gold medals at
Delhi in October.
As a result, the glare of the media
spotlight is now firmly fixed on the
But the affable Queenslander insists
heightened external expectations won't
affect her as she plans her 2012 Olympic
''You can only go out there and do
your best, and if anyone else isn't happy
with how you perform, you can't do
anything about it,'' she said.
''I'm always nervous when I get up
behind the blocks and I always put my
own pressure on myself to perform.
''I don't think I will feel added
Coutts was undoubtedly Australia's
star of the Commonwealth Games, in any
But after overcoming her fair share of
adversity, the versatile swimmer is hardly
an overnight success.
Had it not been for an intercepted
bowel in 2007, and subsequent surgery,
Coutts would almost certainly have made
her initial splash much earlier.
Despite limited preparation, she
qualified for the 200m individual medley
at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, finishing
fifth in the final.
''It was quite a hard thing to overcome,
and there's always that doubt in the back
of your mind whether you'll ever be as
good as you can be with setbacks like
that,'' she said.
''When I made the Olympics everyone
was shocked, but I only had six months
back in the water before I made the team.
''I was a big surprise to a lot of people,
and even to myself.''
Next on Coutts' agenda is the
Australian Championships in April,
where she will attempt to qualify for her
debut world championships at China in
She missed the 2009 world
championships after again going under
the knife to remove troublesome scar
tissue from her initial surgery.
Beating the nations of the
Commonwealth is one thing.
Mixing it with the Americans,
Europeans and Chinese -- particularly on
their home patch -- is another.
The world will be watching to see if she
handles the step up in class, but Coutts
has bigger fish to fry.
''At this point it's more about Olympic
preparation -- my coach isn't too stressed
about the worlds,'' she said.
''Making the team will be a fantastic
thing, but in the long term it's all about
Coutts will swim all three of her best
events -- 100m butterfly, 200m individual
medley and 100m freestyle -- in London
after a favourable Olympic schedule was
''I don't have any overlaps with my
events, which is pretty rare, and it's best
for my recovery time,'' she said.
Coutts was named Australian swimmer
of the year last year, joining an illustrious
list of previous winners including Ian
Thorpe, Susie O'Neill and Grant Hackett.
And she justifiably carried the
Australian flag at the Commonwealth
Games closing ceremony.
But while she boasts an elevated status
in swimming's hierarchy, Coutts has
retained her modest demeanour.
''I still feel like I'm the same person,''
''Even though I won swimmer of the
year I don't feel special or anything.''
Coutts admits the extra attention she
receives from the public can be
overwhelming at times.
She now only works two days a week
at Belconnen Labor Club, and has
resumed working five days a fortnight at
When tending the cats, Coutts is able to
slip into welcome anonymity, temporarily
escaping the glare of public life.
After all, those adorable balls of fur
couldn't care less how many gold medals
''Working at the Labor Club I have a
lot of people approaching me, and talking
to me about swimming all the time,'' she
''I go to work to get away from
swimming and do something different to
take my mind off it.
''It's nice to work around the cats,
because they don't talk.''
''The faster you want to go, the more
relaxed you need to be.''
That's another adage on the wall of
Hopefully those kittens will help
ensure she is revitalised, refreshed and
ready when London comes calling.
The pages within Women's Words of Wisdom, Power and Passion
are filled with stunning photos and personal anecdotes from
Australia's most respected and adored women. Released to
coincide with the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day,
the book is a celebration of influential women in fashion, business,
sports, politics, media and everyday life. Through their insight, valor
and compassion come some of life's most important lessons. To be
launched by the Governor General Ms Quentin Bryce, and with a
foreward by Olivia Newton John, this book is poised to become the
ultimate guide to living a balanced life as an Australian woman.
DETAILS: Women's Words of Wisdom, Power and Passion.
By Karen Phillips. KP Media. 208pp. $34.95.
What words of encouragement would you give to
other women regarding their life ambitions?
Listen to your intuition, trust in your abilities and love yourself just
the way you are -- you are totally unique and incredible in your
own right . . . trust in that. You create your life in every moment.
-- Miranda Kerr
If you could encourage women to do something
for themselves, what would it be?
Always believe you are an equal and that you can have equal
aspirations to men.
-- Julia Gillard
Any advice for women to live their best life?
Be true to yourself -- which is sometimes harder than it sounds.
For we often lie to ourselves more than anyone else. Work hard
and help others, laugh and love lots. Always keep your heart and
your mind open.
-- Olivia Newton John
What has been your biggest challenge?
My single biggest challenge is something that I will never
overcome and I will deal with every day for the rest of my life. The
day I lost Steve was the day I forever changed. A part of me died
with him that day. Now I have the choice of succumbing to the
overwhelming grief, or honouring Steve by continuing his legacy.
But most of all, I strive to carry on for our incredible children.
-- Terri Irwin
What are your top tips for success?
Never let anyone tell you that it's not possible. No matter how far
fetched it may seem or how many times you get knocked down,
if you believe in something, there is nothing better than having
the opportunity to pursue your dreams. I see so many talented
young athletes who want to be at the top of their sport, though
they never stop to think about the process that it takes to get
there. Success stories are never just all smooth sailing and about
following a rule book or easy path. They are more like a blurb on
a book -- it may tell you a little bit of what you want to know, but
the pages are filled with far more insight, lessons and setbacks.
-- Emma Snowsill
As a mother, what is the best advice you would
give to your children?
Work hard! If it is worth having, it is worth working for. That works
on a lot of levels. There is no substitute for hard work and that
implies a contribution to society, a contribution to yourself and
understanding that you can express your potential and actually
realise your potential by engaging in working at it.
-- Fiona Wood
What makes for a great marriage?
Working and it and never taking it for granted and loving every
day. I have high expectations. If you don't have high expectations
you will never be satisfied. But if you have high expectations they
will be met because you work at it. My husband is so driven and
I'm so laid back. We are a good couple. He has such humour and
makes me laugh every single day -- often at myself.
-- Maggie Beer
What advice do you have for other women?
Believe you can do anything. Women are amazing and really,
you can do anything that you set your mind to. I know growing
up I was told I couldn't play football or basketball, so I was
determined to play and ultimately achieve my dream.
-- Carrie Graf
What was the best thing your mother taught you?
To laugh. We were poor and lived in an isolated part of the world.
We were fringe dwellers and ostracised but she taught us to
laugh. She always said there was somebody else much worse off
than we were. She taught me to have a sense of balance as to
where we fit into the world.
-- Pat O'Shane
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