Murray Wenzel / AAP News
The Tokyo Olympic gold medallist is ready to be bold, brave and brilliant in Birmingham.
Mild-mannered world and Olympic swimming champion Zac Stubblety-Cook has said he will enjoy being the hunted, forward thinker of breaststroke as he aims to go faster again.
The Brisbane talent clocked two minutes 05.95 seconds to better a two-year-old world mark over 200 metres at last month’s national championships.
Showing no signs of fatigue after a breakthrough gold at last year’s Games, Stubblety-Cook is among a host of Olympic champions leading Australia’s charge at the world championships in Budapest, Hungary, from Saturday.
The Commonwealth Games in Birmingham will follow in July, before a potential gold medal defence at Paris 2024.
“Hopefully I’ll be able to go a little bit faster,” the 23-year-old said.
“If it was my perfect race then I would have retired on the spot.
“We’ve had to reassess where we’re at, what we’re doing and what to improve on.
“After last year (at Tokyo) I became the hunted and now, again, people will watch and model off that race.
“So it’s an interesting time, where I get to be the forward thinker of the 200m breaststroke.”
Low profile compared with teammates like Ariarne Titmus, Kyle Chalmers and Emma McKeon, Stubblety-Cook has been engrossing himself in coffee, photography and hiking to unwind between major events.
But he can’t ignore that things have changed and that his efforts have been recognised with a leadership position in the Australian swimming team.
“It’s been a crazy 12 months; gold and a world record is something I never thought I’d achieve in a lifetime, let alone 12 months,” he said.
“Off the back of the Olympics I got a bit of liberation in my swimming and felt freed by it and I’m taking that in my stride.
“Life’s changed; meeting kids and them being in awe of you … I remember me doing that.
“It’s strange, you have a bit of impostor syndrome but I hope I don’t come to terms with it because I don’t want to get too big for my boots.”