Border swimmer Zoe Deacon has opened up about the injury problems she faced in the year leading up to the Olympic Games.
Deacon, from Rutherglen, raced at the Australian trials last month and reached finals in both the 100m and 200m breaststroke.
Qualification for Tokyo proved a bridge too far but getting so close speaks volumes for not only the 21-year-old's talent but her determination.
"I wasn't sure what to expect," Deacon admitted.
"I've had a really bad run with injury the last year, on and off, so my preparation wasn't ideal.
"It was different to how I would usually prepare for a big meet like that so I was going in there with minimal expectations.
"It's a groin injury which I got in lockdown, around August last year.
"It's been on and off for a little while and I've had three cortisone injections.
"We were definitely trying to get it right for trials and with a lot of help and support from my coach, physio and doctor, we were able to get it good enough for me to have a good training block before it.
"But it was definitely difficult, especially in lockdown.
"I've had an interrupted year of training but in the end, it was another challenge to overcome and I was proud that I was able to get up and compete in spite of it.
"A personal best would have been great, but, considering the year I've had, I would have just been happy with a good race.
"I was very happy with the result. I got a PB in my 100 breast and I was very happy, with the year I've had, to go and perform that well, the best I've ever done.
"I was so happy."
The Olympic swimming program starts on Saturday and Deacon is confident the Australians who made it to Tokyo will rise to the occasion.
"I think we should be very excited," she said.
"I'm definitely very excited to watch our team-mates (from Nunawading in Melbourne) but also the whole Australian team.
"I think they'll do a great job and do us all proud.
"From what we saw at trials, I think there will be some really inspiring performances and I can't wait to see what happens."
Deacon, who's in her final semester of an Arts degree at Monash University, has to work her studies around swimming commitments which include nine pool sessions a week plus gym work and pilates.
She faced a last-minute dash out of Victoria ahead of the trials when the Victorian Government announced they were going into lockdown.
"We only had a couple of hours' notice that we had to leave," Deacon explained.
"Straight after training, our coach was like 'go home and pack, we've got to get on a flight this afternoon' and we were straight to the Gold Coast that night, having no idea what we'd be doing or what was set up for the next two weeks.
"But I think the year before that, with all the lockdowns and having to be flexible and adaptable, was, in the end, what kept us relaxed.
"We were able to support each other and stick together because we'd all been through the same thing.
"Olympic trials is such a different atmosphere to any other competition I've been to.
"It was such a great opportunity to race the best swimmers in Australia and get some really good race experience.
"I greatly appreciated all the support from home. I got a lot of messages, which was really nice, to feel like everyone was behind me.
"There's a lot of pressure on everyone, especially because it was extended an extra year so we've all had an extra year to prepare for it.
"There was a big build-up and with Amazon Prime, having it on TV, it was a really exciting set-up.
"There was a lot of pressure on everyone but it was great to see people make the team and do so well.
"We had two people in our squad, Brendon Smith and Matthew Temple, make the team and we were so proud of them, so happy for them.
"We see them work so hard, day in, day out, so it was great to see them get the reward for their hard work."
Deacon finished sixth in the 200m breaststroke final and seventh in the 100m.
"It's motivation to be better next time, knowing what to improve on and seeing the best swimmers in Australia," she said.
"You can learn a lot from watching other people race and I get a lot of motivation from watching my team-mates do so well.
ALSO IN SPORT:
"It's about learning from it and being happy about the challenges we overcame, making sure I reflect on how far I've come and how far we came as a group.
"I'm looking forward to opportunities that are still down the track.
"First of all, I'm trying to get my injury right so rehabilitation is my number one goal for the moment.
"The Commonwealth Games trials are in April next year so that's my next big one.
"After I get this injury right, I'll be looking forward to that.
"Paris (the 2024 Olympics) was definitely a goal for me and has been for a long time.
"Hopefully I can work away at it, get closer to those times, get my injury right and who knows?
"Hopefully, in three years, it'll be me."
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content:
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.