Australia’s great white swimming hope Mitch Larkin is ready for Rio.
As he prepares for his second Olympic Games, swimmer Mitch Larkin paints a compelling picture of life in the Olympic Village. “It’s full-on, crazy,” he enthuses. “When you realise that the greatest athletes in the world are in the one village, it’s amazing. People are rushing around and it’s a wave of emotion; some are warming up for a final, others are heartbroken that they haven’t given the performance they were after, there are athletes wearing their medals and cheering, and some people have finished competing altogether so they might be at Macca’s eating and relaxing.”
Larkin, who will compete in the 100- and 200-metre backstroke as well as the 4 x 100-metre medley relay, is in a relationship with fellow swimmer Emily Seebohm. In the pool, though, “it’s strictly professional”, says the 23-year-old, who has been dubbed Clark Kent out of the water and Superman in it. “Around the village, we’ll be together. But as soon as we’re on that bus heading to the pool, we’ve got a job to do and nothing gets in the way of that.”
An engineering student who has deferred his studies for now (a wise choice given this year will see him hitting destinations such as San Francisco, Hawaii, Paris, Berlin, Moscow, Ontario and New York), Larkin is coming off a “massive” 2015. As well as being named FINA Male Swimmer of the Year (a title not even Ian Thorpe earned), the Brisbanian won two gold medals at the FINA World Championships in Kazan, Russia. “[Standing on the podium], you look at the Aussie flag and you know that you put it there; that the reason the stadium is singing the Australian anthem is because of something you did. It gives me goosebumps.”
Do you have any superstitions or pre-race rituals?
I’ve tried to not fall into that sort of pattern. But there is one thing I always do – pack an Australian flag. I’ve done that for years.
What are your tips for overcoming jet lag?
As soon as we land, no matter what time it is, we try to get into a routine and that usually means having a swim session. Exercise shakes out all those aches and pains and you sleep pretty well after a swim.
If you could go back in time to see any great Olympic swim live, what would it be?
The men’s 4 x 100-metre freestyle relay at Sydney 2000. There was a lot of talk between the Australian and American teams. Michael Klim broke the record in the lead-off and Ian Thorpe brought it home in the last 100.
What’s the best thing about sharing a room with your fellow athletes?
You can sit back after a busy day and talk about whatever crazy thing has happened. It’s always great to unwind after racing.
Suitcases always get mixed up. We’ve all got the same gear –you hold up a shirt and go, “Is this mine or yours?” Then you smell it and go, “It smells like mine; I’ll wear it.”
If you could have dinner with any athlete from any country, who would it be?
I’m lucky enough to have met [gold-medal-winning Australian cyclist] Anna Meares. She has a pretty amazing story and I could listen to her talk all the time. I’ve also learned a lot by watching Roger Federer. My coach likes to talk about how he is quite emotionless; whether he wins or loses, you can’t tell through his emotions and that’s a good lesson to learn as an athlete, especially at the Olympics.
What dish would you break your pre-Games diet for?
I don’t mind some hot cinnamon doughnuts.
Besides a medal, what do you want to bring home from Rio?
I’ve always brought home little knick-knacks for Mum that she can put on the kitchen table. In the past I’ve brought souvenirs of the statue of the bull in Barcelona and Paris’s Eiffel Tower.
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