Zac surges into swimming spotlight in Tokyo

Even as he was announcing his swimming talent to the world in Tokyo last month, Griffith student Zac Stubblety-Cook was planning for the future and a time after swimming. The 19-year-old claimed silver at the 2018 Pan Pacific Swimming Championships, finishing just behind local favourite and world record holder Ippei Watanabe.

“Coming back to university after Japan has been a shock to the system. I’ve so much to catch up on,” Zac said.

At the top of his to-do list were the final pieces of paperwork that will see him start a double degree in Bachelor of Psychology/Bachelor of Business, a study decision forged on the flexibility of the program combination. “I’m going to be away more and more and for longer periods of time.”

He has been able to reshape a plan for his education going forward with the support of the Griffith Sports College.

The decision was also based on Zac’s keen interest in behaviour economics and the emergence of a cashless society, and his determination to be ready to work in a related field after he has touched the wall for the last time.

“I want to be employable after swimming. I want to have a degree (at that stage) rather than find myself finishing off a degree. Someone once told me you’re a person before you’re an athlete. It’s something that’s very important to me, to have something else other than sport in a balanced life.”

This philosophical approach to life as an athlete served him very well in the wake of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games where he felt he underperformed after making the Australian team for the home Games. “I was disappointed afterwards but when I came back from that I said to myself I need to do other things to keep my mind away from swimming. Recovering properly rather than swimming all of the time was so important.”

“The Commonwealth Games were good for me in that I’ve learned early in my swimming career that it’s not all shiny. I refocused and told myself not to get ahead of myself. That experience definitely had a part in me getting to this level (in Tokyo).”

Zac focused on the 2018 Pan Pacific Swimming Championships and in the lead up to the Australian trials in Adelaide he felt both mind and body were in tune with the water. He dramatically snatched a place on the Australian team with a sensational last ditch swim, competing in the 200m breaststroke. His time of 2:08.65 cut almost two seconds off his previous PB.

Then in Tokyo, on the back of a ‘seize the moment’ pep talk from his coach, he took his final performance to another level finishing in a time of 2:07.89 which saw him hold off compatriot Matthew Wilson and pre-race favourite Josh Prenot from the US.

Zac was among a group of Griffith swimmers to shine at the Pan Pacs with Bachelor of Public Health student, Emma McKeon, again to the forefront. Emma claimed bronze medals in the 50m freestyle and 100m butterfly, along with four gold medals as part of Australian relay teams.

Shayna Jack (Bachelor of Business) also won gold as part of the Australian 4 x 100m freestyle relay team, while Grant Irvine and Madeline Groves – both part of Michael Bohl’s Griffith swimming squad on the Gold Coast – took out relay medals too.

Bachelor of Exercise Science student, Kiah Melverton, swam strongly to win silver in the 1500 freestyle and finish fourth in the 800m freestyle.

There were further medals for Griffith swimmers in the Pan Pacific Para Championships with Rowan Crothers (Bachelor of Public Relations and Communication) and Monique Murphy (Bachelor of Social Work) both in the medals. Rowan picked up three golds and a silver swimming in freestyle competition, while Monique won bronze in the 400m freestyle (s6-s11, s13).