Elijah Winnington returned from the Tokyo Olympics a shattered swimmer questioning his future in the sport, but 12 months on, he is a completely different 22-year-old.
The icing on his redemption cake came at the World Championships in Budapest where he mowed down his more fancied opponents in the 400m freestyle.
“It was a sense of joy and relief as well as a sense of accomplishment,” said Winnington.
“It gave me confidence that I can still perform on the world stage and that the progress I’ve been making over the past year is working, I think that was probably my biggest take away from the event.”
Winnington is now primed for his next international challenge, the Commonwealth Games. He will be lining up in the 200m, 400m and the 4x200m relay.
When asked what he would consider to be a pass mark in Birmingham, he said he has already passed, because he knows he will enjoy the experience.
“The biggest learning I have had is that when we go away and compete with these teams it’s actually nothing to do with medals or times and all that,” he explained.
“The things you remember are the relationships that you’ve made and the experiences that you had. That’s what I went into World Championships doing and it obviously worked out for the best.
“It’s not a sense of not caring but it’s about just letting go and whatever happens is already going to happen.”
It also hasn’t hurt that he has been able to lap up the European summer during staging camps in Spain and France.
The Dolphins squad was given four days out of the water when they first arrived, so he and several teammates headed to Barcelona where he let his hair down and relaxed.
Winnington will be racing on three of the six days of the Commonwealth Games swimming schedule.
He knows he has done all the preparation he can and is not worrying about who is racing in the lane next to him.
“I’m completely focused on myself. I can’t control what anyone else is going to do, if they’re going to do a time that is faster than what I do on the day then good on them,” he said.
“I’m just going to worry about myself and make sure that I’m not only in the best shape that I can be, but I am also just loving the experience because that is what I’ll remember when I go home.”
Winnington plans to recommence his Bachelor of Business studies in semester three. He said having a degree will be crucial once his swimming chapter is over.
“It’s a really good distraction for me. It’s something different, working hard in a different way that isn’t physical. I enjoy having a routine so when swimming isn’t as hectic it’s nice having that flow that comes from uni.”
His parents and girlfriend will be cheering for him in Birmingham before they all enjoy a well-earned holiday in Europe after two months apart.
Then it will be full steam ahead for Paris 2024.
For information on how to watch Winnington and other Bondies in Birmingham click here https://bond.edu.au/news/71986/commonwealth-games-schedule-bondies-birmingham.