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Mollie O'Callaghan: Fastest Female 200m Swimmer Ever

Mollie O'Callaghan: Fastest Female 200m Swimmer Ever

Signet is sitting poolside waiting for young Aussie swimmer, Mollie O’Callaghan, to stop doing laps and come up for air. With a bag of her favourite Sour Patch Kids in hand, we entice her to take a break from her gruelling training regime to chat about the pressures of success, the importance of mental resilience and exactly how she beat the longest-standing women's record in swimming.

In the water, she's a relentless force of nature, a record-breaking champion who defies expectations and debilitating injury. Yet, out of the water, Mollie O'Callaghan is a talkative, fun-loving Aussie teen with a sweet tooth for Sour Patch Kids. The contrast of this 19 year old Australian swimmer is nothing short of extraordinary – she is both an unassuming and grounded teenager, coexisting with one of the world’s most competitive and fierce athletes.

“I guess there’s a new sense of pressure on me after that. Everyone expects me to do it again or do better. Especially after racing with an injury last time. They're like, “well, what can you do when you’re not injured?”

"I didn’t expect to win let alone break a world record."

While the young Aussie’s achievements might seem out of the blue for someone her age, they’re the well-earned result of Mollie's dedication, the support of her family and her rigorous training schedule. “I’m always in the pool or look like I’ve been in the pool...a bit like a drowned rat. A lot of us swimmers don't have anything outside of swimming. Swimming is our world,” explains Mollie.

Mollie O'Callaghan Preparing for RaceMollie O'Callaghan Preparing for Race

Her physical training routine consists of an exhausting nine pool sessions per week, accompanied by gym workouts, bike sessions, core exercises, and Pilates. “I'm not going to lie; I think it's one of the toughest sports to be in."

While physical training is fundamental to any sport, Mollie believes mental resilience is also crucial with the younger swimmers. “There's ups and downs for everyone during their career. Sometimes, it's quite hard to stay in a positive mindset. I need a big support team to guide and train me through those times.”

You've got to learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Once you get past that, then you're quite free to swim."

Mollie’s team help her to be both physically and mentally ready to push and reach her best times in the pool. “You've got to learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Once you get past that, then you're quite free to swim. I’ve spent endless hours pushing my mind so that when I’m in the water, not able to breathe, I can get through it and drive myself to keep going.”

Mollie candidly shared experiences of her body cramping up during training, pushing her to the brink. "It comes from hard training and hard racing. It starts either lower or higher in my abdomen and it kind of compresses everything. Then my breath shortens, I start to shake, I feel nauseous, and I can't move," she revealed. These moments, she believes, are part of training and help to shape her as a competitive swimmer.

Mollie O'Callaghan Diving into PoolMollie O'Callaghan Diving into Pool

In July 2023, Mollie gained global recognition when she broke the longest-standing world record in women’s swimming for the 200m freestyle. It hadn’t been beaten for 14 years and she did it just three weeks after dislocating her knee. “The normal recovery for that type of injury is six weeks. It was probably one of the scariest moments in my swimming career and my life. I didn’t expect to win let alone break a record. I was a wreck, and it took a long time to compose myself afterwards. I was crying because I was just so proud of myself. It was completely unexpected,” Mollie revealed. Her finish time was 1:52.85, which wiped out the previous world record of 1:52.98 set by Italy’s Federica Pelligrini. The previous record was also achieved wearing the now banned and slightly unfair LZR racer suit in 2009.

As she looks ahead, Mollie remains focused on her goals, both short-term and long-term. "Next year, I think my biggest step is going to be making the Australian team and being a part of the women's side. Especially in the 100m and 200m freestyles. It's really hard to make the Australian international swimming team. I think that's the biggest hurdle that I've got to get over. Gold would be the cherry on top <laughs>."

Mollie O'Callaghan Preparing for RaceMollie O'Callaghan Preparing for Race

“Swimming is my life and my job. Having sponsors like Signet means that I can focus on the parts of it that I love, and I really appreciate that. You guys even brought me some Sour Patch Kids, I’m feeling the love.”

We’re proud to support Mollie O'Callaghan as a member of Team Signet. Join us as we get behind her, the rest of the team, and over 60,000 Aussie businesses all chasing their own dreams.

Read on to find out more about Mollie. 

Signet: How do you set your goals and how do you measure progress? 

Mollie: I like setting little goals and building them up. Obviously, I have big goals, but I think taking them step by step is probably the healthiest way to be. It’s important to appreciate each step that I take. I don’t usually talk about my goals. I think it can come across quite egotistical. I prefer to keep it to myself and if I do it, I do it. If I don't, I don't. I'll work towards it instead. 

Signet: Is it difficult to make the team? Is there a lot of competition? 

Mollie: Yes, it is. Every swimmer knows that the standards are very high in Australian swimming. It's a very tough process and it's sometimes harder than the actual race itself. 

Signet: What do you love most about swimming for Australia? 

Mollie: I love the social side, traveling and meeting new people. I enjoy that the most. It's quite exciting. I do get a bit of “fear of missing out” if I’m not there.  They had the World Cup recently and I was like, “I wish I was there.” Not so much for the swimming aspect, but more for the social aspect because I love being with my friends.  

Mollie O'Callaghan Close up with GogglesMollie O'Callaghan Close up with Goggles

Signet: Tell us more about the World Aquatics Championship record after the dislocation. What happened in the lead up to that race? 

Mollie: <Laugh>, I was so scared because I didn't swim the heats and I didn't know how I was going to go. I knew I had done everything possible to prepare myself and Dean (Dean Boxall – Australian Swimming Coach) believed in me. The recovery for that type of injury was supposed to be six weeks and I needed to do it in three. I did everything I could, physios, treatments, even an ice machine. All on top of my actual training. 

Signet: Do you feel there is an expectation for you to do it again?  

Mollie: I guess there’s a new sense of pressure on me after that. Everyone expects me to do it again or do better. Especially after racing with an injury last time. They're like, “well, what can you do when you’re not injured?” It's a hard one. I know I’m capable and there’s always new things I can try. I think also having the other girls (Australian Swimmer - Ariarne Titmus and Australian Swimmer - Shayna Jack) performing quite close to me is definitely driving me to improve. It’s the difference of milliseconds for a win or loss. I’ve just got to keep pushing. 

Mollie O'Callaghan Black and White Candid Mollie O'Callaghan Black and White Candid

Signet: Can you think of a milestone where your career shifted, or you felt for the first time that sense of Australia being behind you?  

Mollie: I guess there's been a few milestones that really changed things. Finally wearing the green and gold was a big deal. I didn't feel like I was worthy of it until I won the hundred-metre freestyle in 2022 when I was eighteen. The year before I did make the team and I came home with two golds and a bronze, but I didn't get to swim in the finals. They almost didn’t feel like my medals. That gave me the drive in 2022 to push things and see what I could do. To win that two-hundred-metre freestyle at the World Championships really made me go, “Oh wow. Now I'm worthy of putting on the green and gold.” That win set things in motion for me, and we ended up with five world records that year for relays.

Signet: Tell us about how your family has played a role in your career. 

Mollie: I don't think I would be this far in my career without Mum. There's been many instances where she has had to make difficult decisions for me. I think a lot of parents get put off from swimming because <laugh> of that dedication that you need. It's not just me putting in the effort to go to the pool, it's her putting in the effort so I can get in the pool. My swimming career started off because of Mum and her commitment to taking me to training. She would take me mornings and afternoons whilst she was still working. <laughs> She was kind of like, “you better make it worth it.

Mum makes sure I'm okay, physically, and mentally every day. We have an openness that is very freeing, and it allows me to express all my emotions and rant when I need to. It gives me a sense of relief, takes the pressure and stress off. She has to deal with all the good and the bad times. In the down times, she was always there to pick me up and reassure me when I wasn’t feeling confident. She would tell me “It's okay. We're all happy with whatever you do. We are going to be proud of you because you’re doing your best. It's extraordinary what you've already achieved so far.” She's quite strong-minded and, you know, very passionate about a few things. She keeps me in a very straight line, she keeps me grounded.”

Mollie O'Callaghan Smiling by Pool Mollie O'Callaghan Smiling by Pool