The example set by Grant Hackett has been adopted by world swimming champion Cate Campbell in her role as an Australian team leader.
Campbell said she hoped to emulate the “irreplaceable” Hackett as a team captain ahead of the week-long national titles starting in Brisbane on Tuesday.
Hackett’s manager claimed in February the former dual Olympic 1500m freestyle champion was seeking treatment for a prescription medication addiction.
But only fond memories of Hackett were spurring on Campbell.
“I don’t have many role models but Grant Hackett was a massive one for me,” the world 100m freestyle champion said.
“I have had the privilege to know him in and outside the pool.
“He dominated the 1500m – the toughest event – on the world stage for over 10 years.
“His consistency, his high level of performance and his character both in the pool and out as a team leader is something that I would model myself off.”
Campbell said she was smitten on her first major team at the Beijing Olympics where captain Hackett was vying for a third straight 1500m gold.
“I was lying on a physio table and he pulled on my toes and asked me how I had swum,” said Campbell who burst onto the scene with 50m freestyle bronze in China.
“For someone of that calibre to come and speak to a 16-year-old who knew one person on the team was something immense.
“I couldn’t believe it. From that moment on he was cemented as a role model for me.
“That’s one of the highlights of my swimming career.
“Someone taking notice of me when I was feeling small, useless and helpless. Someone taking the time to reach down and offer a hand.
“I have remembered that and always wanted to offer that to someone else.”
Campbell has come a long way since battling a string of setbacks, including career threatening post-viral fatigue syndrome in 2010 and pancreatitis after helping the 4x100m freestyle relay team win London Olympic gold.
She is part of the national team’s seven-strong leadership group ahead of the Glasgow Commonwealth Games trials.
Campbell said the group’s size indicated the void left behind by Hackett.
“That’s why we have a leadership group this time not a team captain because he is one of those irreplaceable athletes on the Australian swimming team,” she said.
Campbell hoped Hackett would eventually adopt the role of team mentor recently given to past greats Susie O’Neill and Michael Klim.
“There will definitely be a place for Grant once he figures out his life,” she said.