Welcome to Episode 12!
Our guest for STIMY Episode 12 is Danielle Merlyn Kettlewell.
Danielle Merlyn Kettlewell is an Australian synchronised swimmer who competed in the team synchronised swimming event in the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics. She was vice-captain of the Australian team which placed eighth overall with 75.4333 in the free routine and 74.0667 in the technical.
She was also selected as Australia’s first Mixed Duet in the sport of artistic swimming for the 2019 FINA World Aquatic Championships. She is now a coach and motivational speaker.
Who is Danielle Merlyn Kettlewell?
Danielle was born and raised in Vancouver, Canada to Australian parents, the youngest of 5 siblings (2 brothers and 2 sisters). Since young, she was exposed to the world of swimming and gymnastics and at the age of 8, entered the world of synchronised swimming (now known as “artistic swimming”).
Now, you might think that she is a “typical” elite athlete who has always topped her year, had a natural affinity for her sport, and ended up, inevitably, on the Olympic world stage.
You couldn’t be further from the truth.
The Unlikely Olympian
Danielle is the first to point out that she is an “unlikely Olympian”.
She didn’t have the right body type. Was never flexible enough. Was the “chubby one” on the team. The reserved at Nationals and didn’t even rank in the top 100 in Canada!
To top all that in October 2013, she was involved in a horrifying incident at training that resulted in her having a major concussion and needing to drop out of university to recover. A situation that resulted in her feeling extremely depressed.
But in the worst of times, something quite unexpected happened. She had the chance to compete for a spot on the Australian national team seeking to qualify for the Rio Olympics!
And in this STIMY interview, we dived deep into:
- The process of being qualifying to be a part of the Olympic synchronised swimming team;
- What she did to go from No.16 out of 16 to No.4 in the team rankings;
- How synchronised swimming teams were selected to participate in the Rio Olympics 2016 (p/s: it’s not really about being the best in the world!);
- What it was like to participate in the opening ceremony of the Rio Olympics;
- What it was like training and participating in the Rio Olympics; and
- Transitioning back to the “real world” after the Olympics.
Olympic Myth Busters
We do a lot of myth busters in this episode when it comes to the world of Olympics, and also the fact that men are discriminated against in the artistic swimming sport!
Rio Olympics 2016
Some things we discussed include:
- Do all Olympians end up becoming rich and famous? (spoiler: she finished the Rio Olympics with $300 in her bank account!!);
- What it is like to train to be a synchronised swimmer (now known as artistic swimming);
- Why she decided to retire a second time & not try for her second Olympics;
- The inherent sexism against men in the sport; and
- Why the mixed duet was rejected from the 2020 Olympics (and why there is hope that this might change for the 2024 Olympics).
Danielle has now retired for the second time for the sport and is passionate about coaching people to pursue their dreams. Some advice she shares include:
- What are the 3 questions you should ask yourself every day to transform yourself just like the Olympians do?
- Her CLARITY Code:
- C – (Getting) Clear (on your limiting self-beliefs)
- L – (Do what you) Love
- A- Adversity
- R- Required action
- I – Improvement formula
- T – Thankfulness
- Y – realising that your dream is not your end goal. Your dream is a journey.
If you’re looking for more inspirational stories, check out:
- Lily Xu Lijia: x3 World Champion & x2 Olympian medallist, flag bearer for China in London Olympics 2012
- Nigel Stanislaus: Celebrity makeup artist who’s worked with the likes of Gigi & Bella Hadid, Tina Turner, Michael Buble & Suki Waterhouse; judge on Asia’s Next Top Model & Australia’s Next Top Model
- Karl Mak: Co-Founder of Hepmil Media Group (SGAG, MGAG, PGAG) on building a meme business empire in Asia
- Red Hong Yi: Artist who paints without a paintbrush. Past clients include Google, Facebook & Nespresso. Her artwork was recently featured on TIME Magazine’s 26 April special issue on climate change & TIMEPieces (TIME’s new NFT community initiative)
If you enjoyed this episode, you can:
Leave a Review
If you enjoy listening to the podcast, we’d love for you to leave a review on iTunes / Apple Podcasts. The link works even if you aren’t on an iPhone. 😉
Send an Audio Message
I’d love to include more listener comments & thoughts into future STIMY episodes! If you have any thoughts to share, a person you’d like me to invite, or a question you’d like answered, send an audio file / voice note to firstname.lastname@example.org
Some of the things we talked about in this STIMY Episode can be found below:
- Danielle: Website, Facebook, Instagram
- Danielle’s book (Kindle & Paperback): The Unlikely Olympian: Step into Your Fears To Achieve Your Dream
- Subscribe to the STIMY Podcast for alerts on future episodes at Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher & RadioPublic
- Leave a review on what you thought of this episode HERE or the comment section of this post below
- Want to be a part of our exclusive private Facebook group & chat with our previous STIMY episode guests? CLICK HERE.
If you want to get an alert about upcoming episodes & be the first to know about freshly booked guests, subscribe to the newsletter below!
I’m constantly sending out information about guests & also asking for questions from my subscribers.
You don’t want to miss out!!
Ep 12: Danielle Kettlewell - Olympian (Australian Synchronised Swimming)
Danielle Kettlewell: The day after I competed, me and my family walked around the beach in Rio, and the triathlon was going on at the time I had just finished.
And I remember this weird moment where I was looking at this Japanese triathlete and she was probably at like five meters away. I was just watching her and she didn't say a word, but I knew exactly how she felt. You could see that she just realized that she competed in the Olympic Games.
She started bawling out of gratitude and joy for what she had done. And in that moment, I started crying cause I was like, I did that. I just did that too. And it was a moment that no one else noticed because when you're so wrapped up in the experience of it all, it's like this out of body thing you can't really feel.
But seeing her have that realization in that moment, I realized that I had done exactly what she had just done.
She didn't win a medal. She just competed and gave it her all. And that was this beautiful realization that I had in my own life. I was like, oh my gosh, I just did that too. How freaking incredible.
Ling Yah: Hey everyone. Welcome to episode 12 of the So this is my why podcast.
I'm your host and producer, Ling Yah. And today's guest is Danielle Kettlewell.
Danielle is a Canadian Australian Olympian who represented Australia in the Rio Olympics for synchronized swimming - now known as artistic swimming. And intriguingly she calls herself the unlikely Olympian.
Because she was never that good. She didn't have the right body type. She wasn't flexible enough. She was overweight. She was on the reserve at nationals and didn't even rank in the top 100 when training in Canada.
And on top of that, she had a major concussion that caused her to drop out of university when the opportunity came to be a part of Australian synchronized swimming team.
But she didn't want to look back at this moment and not give it a shot. So she quit the university, moved halfway around the world to a country where she knew no one, paid 20,000 Australian dollars for the chance to qualify for the Rio Olympics, which she did!
This is a story of how she overcame all odds and also her fascinating insider look into the world of Olympics. Of what it's like to train to be a synchronized swimmer, how teams qualify for the games, life at the Olympic village, the inherent bias against men in synchronized swimming and why not all Olympians are rich and famous.
Are you ready?
Danielle Kettlewell: So I was actually the youngest of five children and they have a big age gap between me and them. So I kind of grew up like an only child because all my siblings were already adults when I was born.
And my mom just tried to check me into everything to just keep me occupied and busy. Like, my family was always really active. My parents grew up on like Bondi beach and gymnastics was just challenging because you could fall down so easily.
And then swimming was just so boring because you just go back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.
So my mom knew that I had a bit of artistic in me and she put me in a class for synchronised swimming - now officially a referred to as artistic swimming - when I was about eight years old and it took me a little while, but I eventually started to fall in love with it
It's just this incredible sport where you can combine together with the grace of a ballerina with the strength of like a gymnast and the endurance of like any elite athlete and then being able to do that in water.
But I had this one big problem.
I just was not very good at my sport at all.
I was definitely the girl that had a great attitude and always came to training and worked hard, but I wasn't flexible and things didn't come naturally to me, like it was challenging. And I just had this belief system, I love my sport, but I'm never going to go anywhere with it.
I just thought I was going to be one of those girls that just participated. You hit the pinnacle in my sport, which was at that point, what I thought in year 11 and 12 when I was about 16, 17 to go to national championships in Canada and even there, I was the reserve on the team and I was so proud of myself for getting there.
And I honestly thought that that was it for me. When I hung up my swimsuit for the first time, I retired at 18 years old. I thought that was it. I thought that I wasn't going to achieve anything else.
Literally, if you would have told me that I would have been an Olympian, six years after I retired, I would have bet against you. Like I was never that girl, I even remember going to national championships and I would look at the girls that were coming first and second.
And I literally remember saying to them, I cannot wait to watch them swim at the Olympics one day. And the craziest part was like, I was competing with them up until the Rio games and they didn't make it to the Olympics. And I did. So to be in this parallel universe where I'm like, I'm the girl that says they're not.
And I looked up to them my whole life, it was definitely an unlikely journey getting there.
Ling Yah: Doing all my research, as you mentioned earlier you were not naturally inclined to answer it. Like you didn't have the right body type, et cetera. So what is the ideal body type for a synchro swimmer?
Danielle Kettlewell: Yeah, it's very much similar to like a ballerina. So quite long and lean, you need to be very flexible.
And you need to be really strong, but not bulky strong. You need to be able to lift your own body weight. Quite similar to a ballerina a little bit stronger than that, but you have to be really flexible and that was something that didn't come to me, especially like around your hips and your shoulders. And because the more flexible you are, the cooler moves that you could do. And that just wasn't my body type.
Like I struggled with my weight growing up and just this thought that I wasn't enough.
I tried to make myself feel better through eating food and it just became this cyclical thing where I wasn't comfortable in my body. And I was overweight when I was younger, but then I've used food to try and make me feel better. And it would just be in this cycle.
So even though yes, I was an athlete throughout high school. Like literally if you see pictures of me, I was a chubby girl on the team that was on the side. It's just so incredible that I have what I was able to do considering everything stacked up against me.
Ling Yah: And this is interesting that you would say you were chubby because you were doing quite strenuous training as well. So what was the training schedule like and how do you balance that with the rest of your life?
Danielle Kettlewell: So in high school, I was probably training 18 to 20 hours a week, like at that top.
So also going, you know, to school about 30 hours a week, and then I would have training probably five to six days a week, which ended up being 20 hours or so.
Ling Yah: And I wanted, before we go even deeper to the story, to explain to people what it's like to train as a synchro swimmer. Because when I was really young, I was actually in the state's team very, very briefly to do some synchro swimming. And I remember the first few weeks, they just made us do laps. It just swam up down, up down up down before they even let us lean back against the wall of the swimming pool to try and learn how to go the other way.
So what was it like to first be exposed to the world and slowly transition to doing highlights where people throw you up in the air and come down, which is completely crazy.
Danielle Kettlewell: So, a lot of parents start to think that, Oh, they're not good swimmers. I'll just put them in synchronized swimming.
Like you need to be able to be a good swimmer before you could go upside down.
So you need to feel really comfortable within the water. And what our training really consists of is different parts. We do a land session where we have to build like our strength on land, and obviously it changes.
And by the time I was on the national Olympic team, we would do an hour and a half, sometimes two hours of land today from stretching to land drilling and land drilling is just reviewing your routine and accounts. Because you have hundreds of accounts within a routine.
And then you do a water warm up from there where you do laps just to work up your aerobic endurance. And then from there you have to do skills. So we do figures, and things around alignments with very specific types of movements.
When you're a synchronized swimmer, you need to feel what vertical is like when you're upside down in the water.
And the interesting thing about the water is it takes away the feeling of gravity. Like gravity is completely shifted.
As a human being, if we're standing too far forward or too far back, we're going to fall. So therefore we know that we're not straight. Whereas in the water, if you're slightly 15 degrees on your front or like forward or slightly 15 degrees on your back, you can't really feel the difference.
So a lot of it is a spatial awareness where you really need to understand what your body feels like in this water, in this type of gravity that you're not used to. So that is a lot of it literally feeling what it's like to be upside down and not panicking.
Cause sometimes when people start to go upside down, they can panic. And when you start to panic, then you can't hold your breath as long.
And then from there you have to practice breath-holding stuff, and so you'd do the stretching and you'd do the counts, you do the water warm up, you do the theater warm-up.
Then you can put things together to create a routine. And the routine - anywhere from two minutes to four minutes long, and you have all of these different counts to music. So if you've ever done dance, usually the music is in six or eight counts. And you coordinate the movement for almost every single count.
And then all the team members do the same counts. You put that together in a routine, you have hundreds of counts, you memorize it, and then you go in submit and perform.
In synchro swimming, we literally do hundreds if not thousands of movements. With any routine, you do that holding your breath 50% of the time. And with seven other people in the water and upside down, it's absolutely like mind-blowing the ability that synchronized swimmers have to just do this thing.
It is not this Esther Williams movie that we saw in the 1930s as ladies just floating around in like pretty patterns.
It is the most challenging sport in the entire world. So, I hope that that gives people just a perspective of how incredible it is.
And on top of that, we do these things called highlights, which you may or may not see, but you can literally go and YouTube it. So just put highlights. Synchronized swimming or artistic swimming, where we literally build like pyramids in the water.
And if you've ever watched gymnastics, they kind of do similar things. We build pyramids under the water. We're not touching the bottom of the ground. We egg either up to the surface to create like a human spring. And then someone jumps up, does a flip in some different way and lands in the water. So, we're doing all of this in the middle of routines, sometimes five or six within a routine, exhausted holding our breath and throwing people two to three meters in the air.
Like it is just the most next level, incredible sport ever.
Ling Yah: And I'm wondering, does your family understand what you do and how important was family support for you growing up?
Danielle Kettlewell: Yeah, that's a good question. My dad wanted me to be a basketball player, bless his heart. He is a beautiful father, but he's like a man's man, right? So he likes watching his football, he likes watching basketball. He likes watching softball and soccer and ice hockey and all of those things.
So like synchronized swimming was beyond him. Like he'd never seen anything like that in his life. He didn't really get it when I was doing it in high school. And then when I started to, you know, go to the national team and try out there. Like, he worked really hard on understanding it even more.
My parents had the chance to come to watch me at the East World Championships in the Olympics. And that perspective of watching our training and how hard we train, how long we train, and then different countries around the world.
They really started to see how incredible the sport is. And, even though they couldn't fully understand it cause they never did it. They had much deeper respect.
My dad still gets all the terminology wrong. Every sport has their terminology, but he does his best. Like he kind of gets it now after so many years of watching it. But to be fair, it's very different from basketball.
Ling Yah: For sure. And so you mentioned briefly that you retired for the first time at the age of 18. I was wondering, what was the rationale behind retiring and what were you thinking of doing at the time?
Danielle Kettlewell: So basically in Canada, at that point, you can either try out for the national team or you could kind of retire.
To be able to trial for the national team. You have to be within the top 25 in the country. And then the top 12, make the cut to try again for another round of the team.
And then if there's space on the national team, then from the top 12, you could possibly make it within the team. There are only eight people in Canada and in Canada, there's like hundreds and hundreds of athletes that do synchronized swimming. And at that point, I wasn't even in the top 100 in the country.
So I was nowhere near the possibility of trying out for the Canadian national team. And so really my only path was kind of to retire. I wasn't gonna go anywhere in the sport. So I decided, you know, this is it. I have had a good run. I'm going to go to university.
I'm going to do what everyone says that you need to do to live a good life and study art history in uni before my world all changed in 2013.
Ling Yah: Yeah so that happened in October, 2013. And could you share what happened? Because that's where the highlights become really important.
Danielle Kettlewell: Yeah, definitely. So, what ended up happening is I was at university. I was full time. I worked a couple of jobs . I was coaching. I was like a fitness instructor and at that point, I had been on a bit of like a health journey as well.
I started to eat healthier and I was feeling better on my body so I had definitely lost some of the baby weight that I was holding earlier and I was on a Masters Synchronized Swimming Routine.
So I think it's in a lot of sports, but definitely, aquatic sports, if you do masters in swimming, synchronized swimming, water polo, it means that you're kind of not at the competitive age, but you're older.
So they have things like masters world championships. Which funnily enough I went to in 2012. It's just a way for people that really love their sport can kind of compete at a level.
That's still fun and exciting, but they're not in that elite athlete category. So I was doing masters and we were training for another world championship, which was going to be in 2014. And so I had a long day of uni and I worked and then I went training that day. And we were practicing highlights like I was explaining before.
So we create these human pyramids and someone goes up and usually does a flip and then lands in the water. And what ended up happening was one day, my teammate went off and if you ever watch like NFL football in America. Like they have all these gear go on, like all these pads and helmets, like in synchronised swimming we have a bathing cap.
And my teammate went up and she came straight down on my head and you can imagine a full human being landing on your head. It's not good for you.
Initially I felt okay. I swam to the side and my teammates pulled me up and I was like, okay, I think I feel fine.
And then I was driving home that evening. And I started to feel this really sick feeling in my stomach. I was getting a really bad headache behind my eye.
And I got home and I was trying to study for a midterm that I had the next day. And I remember looking at the words on the paper and I knew it was English, but I had no idea what it said.
It didn't make any sense to me. And I tried to look over at my mom and say something to her. It's like my cognitive function was completely different. The next day I went to the doctor and I ended up getting diagnosed with a concussion.
I think a concussion is very, very much brushed off as like, Oh, you're lucky you just have a concussion in this world. But people don't realize like our brain is so special and it really needs to be taken care of.
And people don't know enough about concussions. You can't get a CAT scan, you can't get an MRI. The only way you're diagnosed is from your symptoms. They don't really know how to cure you other than just lay and do nothing. I relate to people with mental illness because you look fine.
Like I didn't have any cuts or bruises or anything, but I knew that my brain wasn't working and it's a very confusing state to be in. So I was told to rest for a week and I tried to, but being someone that was, so, so busy before being told to lay in a dark room and not do anything like.
That's hard for anybody and aside the effect of the concussions, which makes sense if you're told to lie in a dark room for like a week or a month is depression. So I fell into this depressive state. I don't have depression, but many people can feel levels of depression with it throughout their life.
And I knew this because it wasn't even that I felt sad. I just started to feel this numbness throughout life.
And a month after I got that concussion, the day after my 21st birthday, I was talking to a friend of mine on the phone and she got a message from the Australian assistant national team coach at the synchronized swimming team who reached out to her and said that the team is looking for more people because this was 2013 at the time.
And they wanted to have more people try out for the team to qualify for the Rio Olympic games. Myself and my friend were both Australian Canadian citizens.
Me being this person who never thought I was enough, I never thought this opportunity was for me at first because they reached out to her.
So it was like, Oh my God, this is amazing for you. I'm so excited for you. You definitely got to do this. And after we kind of celebrated this for her, she turned around and looked at me and she said, You know what Danielle you could do this too. Like we could do this together. We could both go on this journey.
And at first I laughed with her. I was like, there was no way. And then I had this perspective of like, let's think of all the things against me. I'm in Canada.
I have a concussion. I was never really that good. So many things against me, I haven't trained professionally. I was doing masters, but it's nowhere near the level of national team training. And then I had this other perspective. It's like, what if I don't? What if I live my life and don't do it.
Will I always regret it? Will I always wonder, like, what if I had the courage? What if I tried? And I even kind of future paced myself as if I was living like on my deathbed. And I was looking back at my life with all the things that I wished that I have done.
You've ever heard of the book, the five regrets of dying?
Ling Yah: By Bonnie Ware.
Danielle Kettlewell: Yes, it's beautiful. And basically the number one regrets is that I wish I had the courage to live the life that I wanted and not what others wanted. And I had this moment, it was this massive fork in the road.
Do I do what's ridiculous or do I stay safe and always wonder what if. And I was like, there's a 1e-05% chance that I can make it, but somebody has to be that 1%. What if I choose to believe that that might be me and in the process, I'm going to do everything that I possibly can. In the process, I'm going to work so hard on myself. In the process, I'm going to give it everything inside of me.
And I would rather try and fail then always wonder what is. And that thought, that belief led me to take this leap in my life, that I had to find this courage inside of me to do something that was literally crazy.
Within seven months. I recovered from my concussion and moved to Perth, Australia, where I knew nobody, except for my teammates at the time and I had dropped out of university. I moved there with two suitcases. I literally took a leap and had faith in myself that somehow I was going to make this happen.
Ling Yah: So you moved to Australia and I wonder, when you first arrived in Perth, what was it like and what were you thinking? How did you even begin to network and be a part of this whole community that you've never been a part of?
Danielle Kettlewell: Yeah, you know, looking back, I kind of laugh at myself cause I was so laser-focused.
I still have moments where it's like, I was so crazy.
How did I do that? But I was so laser-focused on the opportunity of just improving myself and working towards getting there that I didn't really care about anything else. I moved there and I remember the first night, I knew nobody and I brought a sleeping bag and I slept on the floor of this apartment.
I think that Perth, Australia is probably one of the furthest places in the world from Vancouver, Canada. There is like a 16 hour time difference. I felt so alone, but what scared me more was the fear of regret.
Ling Yah: Could you explain how different it was to train in Australia as opposed to Canada and just being a part of that team preparing to try out for the Olympics?
Danielle Kettlewell: I had to get used to the different terminology because, in Canada, we call them swimsuits in Australia, they call them like bathers or togs.
In Canada, you swim on the right side and then up the left in Australia, they swim in the opposite way.
So even like the first day that I got in the water like I was bumping into people cause we were swimming in opposite directions. So just getting used to all of those things and the beautiful culture about synchronized swimming is that because it's all women and because you have to just train so many hours together, you start to get to know each other really well.
So I built a really good relationship with my teammates.
And the Australian team they train within their state. And then they have training camps. So when I was in Perth, we were probably training 25, 30 hours a week.
And when we're on training camp, we were probably training 60 hours a week. When we're in Perth, we also work or go to uni. And when you're on training camp, which is in Canberra at the Australian Institute of Sport often, then you can't really do anything because you train 10 hours a day, six days a week.
So, it was really challenging to get used to, especially at first. I needed to find a job. It was hard to find a job at the time. Perth was kind of booming at the time so there weren't a lot of jobs available. And then I had to find a job that also allowed me to go away sometimes if I had training camps and stuff like that.
And then as well, I didn't have a car. And Perth is very vast, it doesn't have good public transport.
So I was cycling to training and there was literally this one morning, I had to cycle to training and we started at 5:00 AM and so it took me 20 minutes to cycle there before I did four hours of training in the morning and then cycled back. And it was pouring rain like a downpour and I either had to like, not go, which wasn't an option or just cycle. And I had my bathing suit on underneath, and I was like, I'm just going to get soaking wet. And I got to trading and there were so many moments like that on the journey where I was like, Oh my God, and I never want to disillusion people. It was hard. Like I didn't just like to go to Australia and then make the team, it was a challenge every single day, but just choosing no matter what to come back to, do I love my sport.
Do I love what I'm doing? Yes.
Is this challenging, but do I want to choose this no matter what? Yes.
I can have my moments, this can be challenging, but I choose to wake up tomorrow and I choose to like, have a good perspective and keep going.
Ling Yah: And one of the things you mentioned that you were training with all these girls who became your closest friends, but they were also your competitors. They were also vying for a spot in the Olympic team. So what was it like to train with people that you were also competing with?
Danielle Kettlewell: Yeah. It was a really interesting process.
I really started to feel it in 2015 after we qualified the team for the Olympics. So what a lot of people don't know is for Olympic games for teams, you qualify the country for the Olympics.
And then even if I was on the team that qualified the country Australia for the Olympics, that didn't mean I had a spot in the team. I still had to qualify myself. So, we really had this feeling of, oh my gosh. Now we've all got to go up against each other.
And we're all going to be ranked. And one through nine make the Olympic team and the others don't. And it was really this feeling of like, Holy crap. It's this weird, we are in this together, but I'm also in this alone.
I couldn't train any harder than anyone else.
We had the same training hours. How am I going to set myself apart? And that's really, with the formulas that I've come up with my book and my coaching. And this is translatable to anything that you do in life.
Like, what is your strength and what is your weakness? How can you either outsource or work on your weakness?
And then the other part of it is like, What has the people that have walked before me, what have they done to help them succeed that I can follow and what have they done that hasn't worked and I can make sure that I either do differently or don't do at all.
When I got to Australia in 2014, I was number 16 out of 16 girls. Like I was not good. And when I qualified for the Rio team, I came forth, like literally focusing in on myself and working smarter rather than harder really helped accelerate my growth.
Ling Yah: Looking back. What was that big change to allow you to jump from 16 to four?
Was it really the state of mind that allowed you to make that huge improvement?
Danielle Kettlewell: Yeah, it was a hundred percent inner work.
And this is what sets athletes apart that I think people don't necessarily realize. There's a point that a human body can only train so much.
Elite athletes teether this line of pushing yourself to the absolute limit before you get an injury or have fatigue or overexertion. So the things that set people apart is yes, training hard is important, but the ones that really lead are the ones that work on their brain. That works on their mental capacity.
And I really went to town on that.
I was going to a sports psychologist with the WIA Institute of sport. I was literally journaling every single day on like, how did I do at training? What can I do better tomorrow? What do I want to improve on?
And that muscle of self-awareness was absolutely vital in my improvement. And being really aware of like, yes, I'm going to own everything that I'm doing well, and I'm also going to own what I need to improve on.
Because once you start to change your mind, your mind is limitless. Your body has a limit to what is possible for, but the more that you create limitlessness in your mind, the more you can push your body. And that's where the magic happens with the amazing Olympians in the world.
Ling Yah: And how important was the exercise of visualization?
Danielle Kettlewell: A hundred percent. Like visualization is another way to set yourself apart in sport because it doesn't physically exert your body, but you train your mind.
We're very lucky to have really good sports psychologists working with us. He had been to 10 Olympics as a sports psychologist.
Brian Miller. He was also the president of synchro Australia at the time. Incredible sports psychologist. And he was at the forefront of building sport psychology, back in when it kind of started more so in 1984 and he would just share with us the power of visualization.
And the story that I love to share, which was so powerful is, he was working with a hurdler.
So that's the one where they jumped over those little pylon things and hundred-meter hurdles. So they do that within like a minute or so. And he would visualize himself leaping over these hurdles. And when he would sit there and visualize, he would usually do it within the second of the time that he would actually usually complete them. And the crazy thing about visualization is like when you focus on your frontal lobe and your brain is focused on visualization, time and space disappear. So when you're really visualizing really well, you actually have no concept of time.
And so it's very challenging to actually do it within the time limit. That means he was an extremely good visualizer.
And this one day he was visualizing and he didn't have really as good of a run. And as you may know, from visualization, you always want to do it in a sports setting, like in a competition sense, like you were not going to visualize your training unless you're injured and you want to improve.
So you always visualize in a competition setting and he visualized the competition setting. You do the warm-up, you do the cooldown and he just wasn't happy with it. And what ended up happening is he kind of begged Brian at the time. He's like oh Brian, please please let me do it again. I really have to do it again.
And Brian. No, no, no. You just do it once you don't compete twice in a row. That's not how it works. Anyways, he let in and he was like, okay, you can do it again.
He did his visualization again, did it like on the time or within almost a second of him actually doing it, but then he got up and sprinted to the bin and was vomiting in the bin because his body would never compete twice in a row.
Cause you're putting yourself in absolute exertion. His mind was so good at visualizing that he literally thought that he had done it twice in a row that made him have a visceral result of like throwing up, which is just incredible.
If you ever look into the work of Dr. Joe Dispenza the shifts that you can make in your body, from the visualizing and mentally rehearsing things within your mind is absolutely incredible.
I would do that even in the routine setting, but also in the visualizing my goals setting.
Like before I wrote my book, I would visualize and sit there as if I was like, flipping through the pages every single day in my morning practice and that ended up happening.
You can find so many stories out there of people that visualize things. I think this is where people miss the mark. They're like, cool, I'm going to do it. It's going to be amazing. You need to do it consistently, right? Like if you work at once, you're not going to be fit. Everything is consistent.
And then when you do that with consistency things, Come into fruition when they're in alignment with who you need to be.
So visualization was absolutely integral.
Ling Yah: And do you remember that time where you qualified for the Olympics?
Danielle Kettlewell: So we had Olympic team trials in April of 2016 and the Olympics was in August. I had this moment where it's like, I had done all the right things I had trained. There's literally nothing else that I could do other than show up to training and just believe in myself and trial at the Olympic team trials.
And I had this fear. I was like, Oh my gosh, what if I actually don't make it? Like, after, you know, saying to people, you know, I'd rather try and fail them, always wonder what it's like, I'm just going to do this. I'm just going to go for it. And people believed in me now because everyone's behind me.
Like, oh my gosh, she's doing it. She's doing it.
My family was like booking flights to the Rio Olympics. And there was a lot of pressure. Like I had a lot of family members there.
So, you know, I had this moment. It's like, Oh my gosh, what if I actually don't make it? What if I actually fail?
You know, then what? And I had this like, you know, beautiful aha moment of epiphany, where I realized that it was like, It was never about the Olympic games. Like it was never about that. It was about proving to myself that I was there. It was about proving to that girl that always thought she sucked at her sport that never felt good enough.
That never felt beautiful. That never felt like she was in the right body, that she was enough. And in the process of doing that, I had incredible experiences that made me who I am. I met incredible people. I did something amazing that blew my mind of what I was capable of. And whatever got from there was a cherry on top.
I went into trials on April 7th, 2016, I was sitting there at my tiny little apartment in Perth. And I was waiting for this call from the Australian president of the synchronized swimming association. I was pacing around and I felt like I was going to vomit.
I felt so sick. Can't sleep the night before cause I was just so nervous at that point. You literally can't do anything else.
He called and I was even afraid to pick up the phone and he just said to me, he's like, Danielle, you're going to the Olympics.
And in that moment, Oh my gosh, it still makes me emotional. Like in that moment, I just like started sobbing.
In moments like that, you kind of have like this movie reel going through your mind of every hard moment. I was crying because I was exhausted, I was tired.
I was worried I was going to fail. It all goes through your mind like, Oh my gosh, I did it. And that was one of the greatest feelings. And then from there, cause we were never really going to be like medalists. I just told them myself, I was going to give it everything I had and I'm going to enjoy the journey. Because you know, the thing with life, it goes by so fast, right?
And that was something that I was really, really aware of. I'm so glad that I had retired from the sport. Because I knew that I would miss all the little moments with my teammates and training. I would miss all the moments where I overcame something and I pushed really hard. I miss all of those like incredible little memories and the competition is amazing, but it doesn't make me who I am.
Ling Yah: And the journey, once you qualified to the Olympics, it wasn't smooth sailing either because I understand you had to pay your own way through. I mean, why was that so? Were you not being paid? Like how do you even manage the finances?
Danielle Kettlewell: Yeah. So that's one thing that I think a lot of people don't realize as well.
We seem to think, because of the way that the media makes it, that every athlete is like a multimillionaire and there's a lot of athletes that do really well, don't get me wrong and like good on them. I think every athlete needs to be paid a lot, but most of the athletes that go to the Olympics get paid below minimum wage or are self-funded.
As an Australian Olympic team, we see very minimal funding, but we had to pay in Australian dollars up to 10 to 20,000 dollars a year to be on the team. And on top of that, you have to pay for life. You have to pay for rent and you have to pay for food.
You have to pay for all of the things. So one of the blessings is like, my parents helped me out to pay that because it was like this collective dream. And a lot of the other girls like families had to pay that as well. And it's not as the fault of the association of synchronized swimming, they just receive very little funding.
Once we got on the plane to go to Rio, then everything's paid for
We got a little bit of sponsorship from Gina Rinehart, and her mining company but other than that, it was mostly self-funded, which was really challenging.
I still had to pay for rent and food and life. And my boyfriend at the time helped me a lot. So there was a lot of financial stress on top of everything else that comes with being an athlete.
Ling Yah: Yeah. And I think that you were working at a bar until 1:00 AM and walking home and then going to training at 5:00 AM and that was just your life leading up to the Olympics.
Danielle Kettlewell: Yeah. Yeah. And that wasn't every day, but there were days like that.
I would just be like, okay, you just do what you gotta do and you just make it happen.
And it took lots of hard work and that's okay. That's why I was able to make it happen, but it does take time. It does take patience and it does take working efficiently and hard. So yeah, there were many, many challenges along the way.
Ling Yah: And one thing that you mentioned briefly, which I found interesting was that you weren't considered proper Olympic contenders. Could you elaborate a little bit more about that?
Danielle Kettlewell: What a lot of people don't realize is that the Olympics it's about worldwide representation,
It's necessarily about the best of the world. Yes, there are definitely the best in the world, but if you want to find the best in the world extensively within sports, it's like the world championships of the sport. So what happens at Olympic levels is they allow entries. They want every country to get in and every continent.
So the five rings represent the five continents North and South America. They say as one continent. Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia.
How the qualification process worked for synchronized swimming 2016, it's changed for the next Olympics. They allowed eight teams into the Olympics, one from each continent and then three wild cards.
So you think about how Europe has a lot more people to compete against then Australia. And even Africans, they don't have a lot of synchronized swimming teams, so it's Egypt that makes it. So we had to compete against New Zealand to qualify for the Olympics. We weren't at the caliber of ever being an Olympic medal contender, but to us, it wasn't about that.
It was like about this incredible experience and it gave us the drive as well. We worked so hard to just make sure that we gave it everything to do our absolute best and have the honor of representing our country and of becoming an Olympian so that we could walk out there and know that we 1000% deserve to be an Olympian and are so proud of that. Like the way that Australia gets into the Olympics in synchronized swimming is different than people think.
We came eight out of eight and people say to me, Oh, you know, well you still went to the Olympics, and I was like, it isn’t about coming first. It was about doing the best that we can. And we're. Inside a culture where, we value first, second, third, we really value first, you know? And it's like, oh, if you don't come first, like, Oh, too bad.
And for you, it's like, no, no, no, no. There's pride in doing the absolute best that you can and whatever the ranking that's okay.
Ling Yah: And I wonder, that journey going to the Olympics and being in the Olympics. What was your favorite moment?
Danielle Kettlewell: There were so many favorite moments. But one of the moments that will always kind of stand out in my mind was throughout my life, I had always been obsessed with the Olympics. Like my family really loves sports.
We were always the people that would sit down for two weeks and just have the TV on constantly.
One of the things that I always remember is being so excited to watch the opening ceremonies and I would literally watch opening ceremonies and cry, like for the athletes, like, Oh my gosh, how amazing that each and every one of them is reaching the pinnacle within their lives.
So to realize that I could walk into the opening ceremony myself, it just felt overwhelming.
I think people don't realize as well that not every athlete gets to walk in the opening ceremonies because it's such a very intense event.
You leave at 3:00 PM in the afternoon and you don't get back till 3:00 AM, and when you're there, you can't sit down, you can't eat, you can't go to the toilet. And so athletes if you're training the next few days like you're on optimal performance mode.
So usually if you compete in the first week, you're not allowed to go. So we competed at the end of the Olympics. So that was a blessing that we actually got to get a walk in the Olympics and the opening ceremony
That day I was just so excited. I remember all of that, all the buses lining up,
There are about 10,000 athletes that walk into the opening ceremonies and the buses fit 30 to 60 people. So there are literally hundreds of buses and we're all lined up in our special outfits. Cause you have a specific outfit you have to wear, like they even tell you that the girls like to tie their scarves, like so funny.
In Rio, they stopped all the traffic on the highway for all the buses against the opening ceremony.
If you ever watch, it's kind of like in the middle when the athletes walk in and there are 80,000 people in the stadium, crazy. And we're walking and you can feel the energy. And you're like so excited to walk in.
We were determined to get on the camera and I had this thing on my head, like, hi mum and dad. So my family was in Vancouver at the time and they're going to fly a few days to Rio after that.
The first line of the country, usually they choose who they want to be in the first place. And usually, they're like well-known athletes for the country. So then we were like right behind them. and we're like, okay, we're gonna get on camera.
We're going to get to the front. And then we start to walk in and you have this really dark tunnel. And on the other side, you walked through to the entry of the stadium and you know, we're walking in, and everyone has phones out.
Also at the Olympics, we all got Samsung phones, which was really cool. Everyone got an Olympic phone, which is actually so smart on Samsung's part.
And so we're walking into this dark tunnel and it's pitch black in there, but you can feel the energy of everyone around you.
If you've ever heard, like the Australian cheer, it's like Aussie Aussie Aussie, oy oy oy. So the whole Aussie team starts yelling, Aussie Aussie Aussie, oy oy oy. And I just started like, Bawling my eyes out because I just felt so incredibly proud to be there.
And it felt like this incredible metaphor, like I was in that darkness and I was holding my teammate's hand and bawling my eyes out, out of overwhelming joy and I really felt like it was this beautiful metaphor for life and I walked into the light and the stadium.
And I just felt in that moment, I felt like I became an Olympian and I walked out and like, me and my teammates were right on camera as well, like waving at everyone. And I was just crying my eyes up because it was in that moment really that I was like, Oh my gosh, I freaking did it.
Going from that girl that was sitting in two and a half years earlier and concussed, and wondering why the heck this is happening to her wondering like she's ever going to be able to do anything great with her life and actually saying it.
Following through working hard and making it happen. Like that moment was just incredible.
Ling Yah: And what was it like being a part of the Olympic village because you had two weeks before your event started, so what was it like, do you hang out with the other athletes or are you just training going back to rest, training?
Danielle Kettlewell: Yeah you know, so many people don't realize, we were training every single day. We had six hours of training in the water every day, two hours on land. So we're still training every single day in the lead up to the games and it was cool.
Like you go to the stadium and they have a training stadium, that you train in and then they have the competition stadium and you usually get to practice at the competition area, like quite a few times before you compete. So it gets really normal, depending on what events are live.
And so it's just cool, like getting on the bus with different Olympians and cause being synchronised swimmers so around all the aquatic Olympians, so we are around lots of divers and water polo players and swimmers.
That was like, So incredible. meeting so many different, notable athletes was really cool and in our free time, we would go down. They had this area where all the athletes hung out and just watched different sports and learned from different athletes about different sports, which is so cool. That's one of the things I love about the Olympics too, is like, so often, what are the sorts of people watching this world?
It's like basketball, football, soccer, you know, those are the most ones that are shown and maybe UFC and other stuff, but at the Olympics, when you get to watch everything from like kayaking and cycling to like skeet shooting, like so many things.
And so it was really cool getting to hear about all the sports with the other athletes and just hear about different people's experiences. Like even how different it is to be every athlete from a different sport. Like there was a guy there, it was his fourth Olympic games.
He was a shooter. He was shooting 50 meters away to a target that's the size of the 50 cent piece in Australia, which may be like two centimeters, and like incredible skill, but he would train three hours a week. And I almost had my jaw dropped.
I was like, no wonder you can go to four Olympics. We trained 60 hours a week.
But he still had been incredible. So just like having the understanding of what it takes to be in different sports was really, really cool and I had that perspective.
And then the village itself is really amazing.
It's very weird. It's like everyone, you have to wear your Olympic clothing. You cannot wear any of your clothes. We were given two full suitcases with about $12,000 worth of ADIDAS clothing you have to wear all the time.
Like only thing you can wear that is yours is your underwear, like, should they give you everything?
And so walking around and you know, and what country everyone's from.
So many people have asked me like, have you met this person, you met this person like there are 30,000 people in the village. Like if you're in a city like that with 30,000 people you don't bump into the same person every day because between the 10,000 athletes and between all of the staff and between all the people that work there and like clean and make the food and everything like it's huge.
So yeah, it was really cool to just see all the different body types that it is to be an athlete, like I'm five foot nine, so 175 centimeters.
And I was like below average height at the Olympics. Like, and I'm tall. I was like, I've never felt short in my life. This is what it feels like to be short because there are so many basketball players, volleyball players, tall swimmers, incredible, even to see the tiny little Chinese gymnast.
Like I really doubt that they were 16 years old. They still had baby teeth growing in, but they were like four feet tall. It was just crazy to see how the human body just adapts to every different sport, which is really interesting.
Ling Yah: And what was it like actually competing in the Olympics? Was it different from the other competitions you've been before?
Danielle Kettlewell: Yeah, it was, I think, It was really different because like another thing that people don't realize is we trained pretty much in that pool like every single day up until the day that we competed. So it actually felt really normal.
So it's not like you go to that pool and it's like the first time.
It felt really normal, just like with the crowd of probably 8,000 people or something that was there. And you have to do that. Like you have to get in this very weird mentality as an athlete, you can't be in this mindset. That's like every moment's amazing. And everything's so cool.
Because you have to be so laser-focused and that also really energetically drains you and I have a few days where I'm like, Oh my God, everything's so cool. And I felt exhausted. So you have to be in this mindset that Everything's normal.
It's normal to see people walking around with Olympic medals, it's normal to see the cameras everywhere. It's normal to see people with a Russian team had an eight-person staff and someone who massaged them all the time. everything has to feel normal for you because you need to be so focused.
And so I think that was the weirdest thing, because the more that you make everything normal, the more like your body feels safe. Able to compete at your ultimate ability, which is what you have to focus on. So the competing, it was so exciting, but also bizarrely normal,
And at the same time, you have this thing as an athlete where, you know, whether you do a sport like ours, where you do a routine or something, like Usain Bolt that does a hundred-meter sprint.
You do that hundreds of times. We had swum that routine hundreds and hundreds of times. And all anyone ever remembers is that one swim. Or those two swims cause we competed twice.
And It's just like an incredible amount of pressure to put on this. Like one moment, I've competed at three world championships, multiple competitions around the world in my whole life.
I can't even tell the amount of times I've competed. No one cares about anything else, except for those two Olympics wins because it's the Olympics. So you have to take this pressure off of you like this is the be all and end all, because if you're like that, then you're gonna poop your pants really.
So it has to feel normal and it did at that point.
We compete for four minutes, Usain Bolt does 10 seconds. It goes by like that. It goes by so quickly. You walk up on stage, you dive under the water and it's almost over. And then you walk out on stage to receive your scores.
And you're like, oh my gosh, is it already over? It's crazy.
It really made me realize like it was never about the Olympics. Like if you took away the seven minutes collectively that I saw at the Olympic games and gave me everything else, I would still be the person that I am today.
If you only gave me those seven minutes, I wouldn't have the experiences. I wouldn't have the learning lessons. I wouldn't know the people. I wouldn't have all the ability to do everything that I do now in my life. If I didn't have everything that led up to that. And so it's kind of like doing the absolute best that you can, but knowing that it's all about enjoying the journey and trusting that your process and your athleticism and your practices is going to give you the result that you want, but your joy in life comes from the journey and the process and getting to the goal.
Ling Yah: Is there anything in particular, looking back there like a small moment that really touched you and that you think about.
Danielle Kettlewell: One of the moments that touched me really it was actually after I competed. Cause you're kind of in this very like weird state to be in.
You're so focused.
And then when you're done, everything's over. And then you're like, Oh my gosh, the Olympic bubble, amazing. So one of the moments that really stuck with me was actually the day after I competed , me and my family went and walked around the beach in Rio, and the triathlon was going on at the time I had just finished.
And I remember this weird moment where I was looking at this Japanese triathlete and she was probably at like five meters away. For some reason at that moment, I was just watching her and in that moment, you could see, she didn't say a word, but I knew exactly how she felt. You could see that she just realized that she competed in the Olympic games.
And she just finished and she started bawling out of gratitude and joy for what she had done. And in that moment, I started crying cause I was like, I did that. I just did that too. And then I think it was, our coach came when the two of them were just hugging them and it was a moment that no one else noticed.
It was this gift that I was given because when you're so wrapped up in the experience of it all, it's like this out of body thing, you can't really feel, but seeing her have that realization in that moment, I realized that I had done exactly what she had just done.
She didn't win a medal, she just competed and gave it her all. And that was this beautiful realization that I had in my own life. I was like, oh my gosh, I just did that too. How freaking incredible. So yeah, that was really special and like super random.
Ling Yah: No, it's so beautiful. you're in this huge bubble on the biggest station in the world, and then you come back to real life.
Was that a strange thing to be in. Like, how do you even get your bearings?
Danielle Kettlewell: Yeah, it was weird. It was very weird because you go from the Olympic time, like your whole world is focused on that. And I mean, the Olympics is a big thing. Like most people in the world kind of know. If you have access to media, it's everywhere. The advertising that's on the TV.
So you kind of know that the Olympics is happening. And for like two, three weeks, maybe a month, you're the most important thing in the world, but then this weird thing happens as it always does. It's like everyone moves on, but you've just had the biggest experience in your entire life and you just don't feel ready to move on yet.
And because I was so laser focused on that, my life stopped after August 19th, 2016. I had no idea what that was. What's coming next because we had to be like that.
You can't think about what you're going to do afterwards, because all you can do is put all of your energy and thought process into the games.
And it was really challenging afterwards because when you experience such an extreme high, there will always kind of be a bit of a low that comes. Even though you know it, and like you can prepare for everything you could do, you kind of just have to feel it.
So I just definitely had this moment of like, I never even thought I would get to the Olympics. What can I do now? And it was this kind of finding myself, , journey that I started to go on again and little did. I know I'd spent another three years on the team from there, but I had to figure it out for myself.
Ling Yah: Yeah. I think after that, you actually also went back to university and you were also working as a nanny and as a waitress. So you were trying to find out what you were doing. So you also took a year off in 2018. What happened?
Danielle Kettlewell: The financial fit part of the Australian team is really challenging.
I literally left the Olympic games probably with like $300 in my bank account.
I went to schools, and little kids asked me, they're like, are you rich and famous? So I was like, mate, you don't even know. I'm so not at all.
And I went to waitressing and nannying cause I just had to make money. And that's like definitely being pushed off your pedestal. But it's a good reality check. I think what I'm so grateful for is that like no one is better or less than anyone else. We're all as worthy as each other.
And it's only your perception. So it just made me realize that even though I had gone through six experiences, I had to be humble and be a waitress and serve people food, and be a nanny and take care of the kids. And that was okay. And I still had done amazing things, but it didn't make me better than anyone else.
It was just my own journey.
So I took time off. I went to the 2017 world championships. And,
Everything kind of goes in a cycle. At least it did. It was like an Olympic year, a world championship here. And then there was kind of a space here and then another world championships and then the Olympics.
So that's kind of how it goes. So 2018, there weren't any world championships and there wasn't any huge, huge competition. And it was kind of a moment where a lot of my teammates. didn't compete that year because, it's just a chance to catch up on life really. Cause you have to realize that life is bigger than sport.
And so it wasn't a major competition. We still trained but we just weren't at that elite level because to spend another 10 to $20,000 to not go to a world championship just wasn't worth it when we had to do uni and work and all those things. So it was kind of more like a very realistic thing.
And then I thought about going back in 2019.
Ling Yah: And you went back and you did something really unique. You became Australia's first mixed, you're duet with Ethan. So what was that process like? Because I mean, you're working with a guy for one, and he's like only 19 years old. Whereas you had 18 years of synchro swimming under your belt.
What was that whole process of coming together like?
Danielle Kettlewell: It was so weird. I had swam as long as he had been alive and he had just started swimming. I think it was another moment for me where I was in 2018. I was thinking about retiring, I'm just like, uhm not going to 20, 20 Olympics.
And my coach came to me at the time and we knew like Ethan was, I coached with him. And we were looking for a duet partner for him. And my coach came and asked me, she's like, would you want to be his duet partner? And I was like, what, are you joking? Not me. I can't do that. Let's do the thing that I would do.
Ling Yah: Why though?
Danielle Kettlewell: Usually like the mixed wet partners are very petite and elegant and I just wasn't that. I was a really good team swimmer, but it's something I hadn't explored, because in synchronised swimming we have solos with one person, duet with two people, a team with eight people and then a combo, which is 10 people.
So it's a different style and each thing, and I was never really the graceful one. Usually the person that you choose from mixed duet, she becomes like the star, like if you've ever watched ice skating or ice dancing, or even ballroom dancing, the woman is kind of like the spectacle and it's very similar in mixed one.
I just didn't feel like I was that person or had that personality, but my coach seemed to believe in me. So I was like, well, okay. Let's just. Preach what I talk about and take another challenge under my belt. And that was what led me to doing that. Cause I was like, why the heck not? Let's just see if we can do it all over again.
I was like, wow, how cool would it be to be the first mixed duet in Australia? Ethan was a good friend and I love him. He's like a little brother to me cause we're six years age difference.
He's the most down to earth, beautiful guy ever. And I just thought. I would love to do this journey with him. And it would be a really cool experience.
I was thinking either of doing that and training for the Olympic team, or using that kind of as a transition out.
And I eventually chose to transition out of my sport. and it was good because I had so much experience, we didn't train anywhere near the amount that I was training to go to the Olympics, we were probably doing 15 hours a week, which maybe sounds like a crazy amount of exercise.
But for someone that comes from 60 hours a week. , it wasn't really that much. so I could do that and I was working part time and I ended up writing my book at the same time. So it kind of allowed me this ability to have this transition into a normal life, which was a really big blessing as well, to kind of find yourself after sport.
Ling Yah: Yeah. And I'd like to pick up the fact that you said you were Australia's first mixed duet. I think like what's interesting is that synchro streaming, as I understand it is very female dominated. So the fact that Ethan's coming, he faces his own challenge of almost bias against his gender. Am I getting this right?
Danielle Kettlewell: Yeah. synchronized swimming is such a female dominated sport. We create powerful women, which is amazing in a world where it's been the opposite for most women. It's almost like opposite sexism. Only in 2015 mixed duets, men were allowed to compete internationally.
So men were not allowed and by the international rules of FINA, which is the aquatic association of the world, they weren't allowed to compete at world championships. If you ever look up mixed duet, Bill May usually comes up.
He's from the US. He tried out for the 2000 US Olympic team, but he wasn't allowed because he was a man.
They have been fighting for a long time time to allow them to have this level of quality. The downfall is there's nowhere near the amount of male synchronized swimmers as there is female synchronized swimmers.
I think it's quite similar probably to the process within ballet. Like I think ballet is probably like a hundred years ahead of us. I think it will become so much more normal, but it is stereotyped as a woman's sport. However, what I think people don't realize is naturally men are better at it and that's not me being sexist .
Men have more upper body strength because that's the way that they're built. Having more upper body strength is really, really helpful. They can lift women so much higher than women can lift each other.
So there's this really cool dynamic in mixed duet that like the world hasn't seen before
There's new levels. New lifts and things that were being created. And there's this beautiful kind of ballroom dance dynamic between a male and female synchronized swimmer because you create almost this spectacle, like this show. This performance.
You're watching something beautiful, as opposed if you just watch two women together, it's much more tactical if I described that. Right. So it was a really cool like journey to navigate together, and frustrating at times, because I had to kind of walk the boundary of not coaching him.
Because I have spent seven years there. I was thinking as my coach. So walking the line of like letting our coach coach him and me being his teammates and helping him through his own mental barriers of being 18 years behind me and having to take leaps and bounds.
But also he was learning, as an 18 year old. So his mental capacity is so much more than when you learn at eight years old. However, he had to do so much untraining because he was a swimmer and he had to teach himself things that his body had never done before.
And the goal in the world is to get a mixed duet into the Olympic games. I think they were turned down for 2020, but now since 2020 has been postponed that maybe they're going to try again, but hopefully the 2024 Olympics.
So it would be incredible to see because the things that have happened in mixed duets in the past five years have been amazing.
And there's a lot of amazing men around the world that are so good at this sport. Italy is a big world's leader. Russia is a big world leader, Japan and who knows the future of our sport is very exciting. I think unlike a lot of sports, there has been so much undiscovered territory, if that was still possible within our sport, as opposed to lots of sports that have done lots of things.
What is it the one minute mile, it can only get so short. And so many people have already taken leaps and bounds with that, but there's so much space for synchronised swimming to expand.
So I'm so excited to watch it over the next 50 years.
Ling Yah: What were you feeling and why do you think that mixed you at was turned down for the Olympics?
Danielle Kettlewell: Yeah. So there's a lot of technical reasons behind it.
So, number one, they want to have a good pool of athletes.
So there's probably a strong 10 synchronized swimmers in the world. But opposed to teams, there's. 50. So they want to have a good pool of athletes to choose from.
And then number two, what I think people also don't realize is that the Olympics is where they do their best to equalize male and female representation.
So everything is a balance. If you add men in that means you have to take something out from females on another side. So because there's two sports that at the moment are only women are rhythmic gymnastics and synchronized swimming. So in some areas of different sports in the Olympics, they have more men categories, males categories.
They also have to figure out how to equalize the kind of representation the men and women within the Olympic, because depending on the capacity that the country can take, cause Holding the Olympics as a billion dollar price tag to it. So like, what is the talent pool in the world and being able to kind of having to take away from a different sport?
So there's a lot of technicalities behind it, which I think people don't necessarily understand, unless you look behind the curtain.
Ling Yah: And you mentioned that Ethan had to unlearn a lot of things that he'd been training for. Can you give a couple of examples of what you meant by that?
Danielle Kettlewell: Yeah. Like, he didn't even know how to point his toes. He was a breaststroke swimmer. So breaststroke in swimming, you flex your feet, obviously pointing to us, but you flex your ankles .
So he had to learn how to like point his feet, which was so foreign to him. So we'd have all these weird brushing contraptions, trying to get his feet into a certain way. And when you start from your eight, this is the benefit of starting when you're little, your body kind of forms as you grow.
So if you've ever watched ballerina's feats, they're beautiful and like super arch, but he was already fully grown. So to like do something that was, so your body has not done in 18 years is like really challenging. So something like his toe point was really challenging.
Even with flexibility, like in swimming, you don't have to be flexible. You just have to be able to move your arms. He had to learn how to do the split. I'm like, you don't think about these things? There's different things between the legs when you're a man. It’s different there.
So, you know, even though there were so many things that I learned, he's like, it's uncomfortable. I'm like, Oh, I've never thought about that. You know, stuff like that. And what he was like when we first started swinging together, it was so funny. He was kind of like, if you've ever seen a fish when they're trying to be caught and they're just freaking out, that's what it felt like swimming beside him.
And you don't realize when you get really comfortable in the water, like I can do things really easily and gracefully and not have to freak out, but when you're not comfortable in the water, even him just like flipping upside down. You just look like a dying fish. And I was always really scared of being kicked in the face.
Because swimmers are always so horizontal. The synchronised swimmers are vertical often. So he's had to learn so many things, which when you're doing progressively over 18 years because it happened naturally.
But when you have to do it so much at once, It's incredible to watch someone learn a sport, synchronized swimming at the age where you've already developed so many things but he's so determined and he's even improved so much since we swam together last year. So I'm excited to see where he goes in the next coming years.
Ling Yah: And then you guys ended up doing the Bonnie and Clyde routine. What was that like? And how do you come up with that kind of routine?
Danielle Kettlewell: Yeah, it was fun coming up with our routine because-
Ling Yah: Do you get much say in the routine?
Danielle Kettlewell: Yeah, we do. Sometimes with the team routines, you don't get necessarily as much cause there's more people and opinions.
But we definitely got like a bit of say and we just wanted to put something together that would be fun and then represent our personalities. Both me and Ethan, we joke around a lot and we had a great time together. despite the challenges we had a really great relationship and we were definitely more like showmans, like you can choose different things.
Usually there's an angry, intense theme or like a happier theme. So we want it to be more on the joyful side. Cause that's more of who we were. And so it was just a fun process of choosing our coach came to us with the music and we're like, what a cool idea. Like it hasn't really been done before because you know, it's different when you do it with a man.
So, it was really fun to put together and allowed us to like show our personalities more.
Ling Yah: And then after that, you knew that that was your last world championship and you were ready to retire. Second time. What was the thought process behind it?
Danielle Kettlewell: I was in the process at the end of 2018 for trying out again for the Olympic team.
I just had this realization where it's not for me anymore. That there was something else inside of me, which is everything that I'm doing now. And I didn't want to wait another year. And being an Olympian is not for the faint of heart.
some people are saying to me, Oh, you're just like one year out, I'm glad I didn't do it now because they're two years out because it's been postponed this year. But yeah, it's hard. I had done that for almost four years at that point.
And I was tired.
Financially. I knew that if I did it again, I would be on to almost 27 when I compete. And to be 27, to have no life prospects or career beyond that, just didn't seem like something that I wanted to do. And I also had this realization or moment where I wanted to do more with my life.
Being an athlete is incredible and I experienced it a hundred percent, but I think as an athlete, you have to be selfish, you have to do everything for yourself. And that's what allows you to be so successful. But I had this deep desire to help other people and I just didn't want to wait anymore.
So, I realized that I didn't want to go for the 2020 Olympics. And I wanted to use that kind of as my Swan song as my way out. And that ended up being a really beautiful transition where I got to like write my book and transition into everything that I'm doing now.
Ling Yah: So you've mentioned this a number of times.
So let's talk about it. It Is self-funded. It's called The Unlikely Olympian step into your fears to achieve your dream.
Can you tell us the process of just writing that. I understand you had a mentor as well? What was that journey like for you?
Danielle Kettlewell: Yeah, yeah, after I made the Olympics I wanted to share my story and inspire other people through it because I made this promise to myself that if I'm going to do something incredible like this, I want to help other people.
I was trying to write it since the end of the Olympics on May 16, but I just kept hitting a roadblock and it's because I was trying to write it just about me. And I really wanted it to be a story that people could read, but also a story that people could learn to do it within their own life.
And I've got my mentor who helped me write my book and it was really helpful. She kind of gave me the idea of how to put a book together and I did it all myself and once the ideas came, then all of a sudden I wrote it in three months.
My whole book is structured off of this clarity acronym .
And clarity comes from C. Getting clear on your limiting self belief.
So what are the thoughts that are holding you back? Most people, as you know, I'm not enough, I'm not worthy. I'm not capable. I'm not beautiful.
And then L is like, you need to do what you love. Like, if you want to go after your dream, you can't do something that you don't love because that's not the point.
And then A in clarity is adversity knowing that there will always be challenges.
I think sometimes when people go after their dreams or these big goals that we forget that challenges are part of the process. We all have those moments. And so realizing how we can work through those faster.
And then R is required action. Like we can't just sit there. You have to leap into what it is your thing.
That leap is leaning into fear.
E - expecting to work in creating a plan.
A - accepting the sacrifices,
P - having persistence.
I is like the improvement formula, which is working smarter rather than harder.
And then T is having thankfulness.
And then Y is realizing that your dream is not an end goal. Your dream is a journey. And that's really what I want to get across to people more and more.
And then from that, I've created a program called the clarity code. So, I have the book, but if you want to do more deeply and more joy within yourself, I have a program which I'm running at the moment and I run throughout the year. Of just helping people find clarity in their own life because so many people out there don't know what they want to do.
And I bless my whole journey as an Olympian, but I really love where I am right now in life.
Ling Yah: And what was the journey like? Because you have launched this, but you've done all these coaching programs, putting it all together. Do you feel that this is something that you were made for? How do you feel right now?
Danielle Kettlewell: Yeah, definitely. Like, I think that you realize, you look back and you can kind of see the breadcrumbs of eventually where that leads you to where you're going to be.
Part of me is like, did I go on the whole Olympic journey just so I can teach everyone about what I've learned? Maybe I don't know. But I love what I'm doing now
What was kind of beautiful about this whole journey as an entrepreneur is that I just had to keep looking back at my book to know the steps that I needed to move through to be able to go forward.
So in any moments of doubt, I just had to kind of remind myself of what I already knew moving forward and just transferring that to different angles. Coz yes, I did that as an Olympia, but I'm also doing that as an entrepreneur with everything I'm doing now,
Ling Yah: And tell us what life is like in Bali because you've been there for almost a year. So what is it like?
Danielle Kettlewell: I always want to be a coach. a teacher and a speaker. I think it's really important if you're ever looking for a mentor, a leader, look for someone who's the embodiment of what they speak about. So not that they just go tell you on stage and then they act as someone else, but be someone that does it and talks about it.
So now I talk about living the life that you love and living your dreams. One of my big dreams, I had gone on a short trip to Bali cause it's really close to Perth a few years ago and I just had this thing in my mind. I was like, I'm going to live there. I don't know how I'm going to do it, but I just want to live there.
and when me and my partner met a couple of years ago, we made this plan of transitioning to move to Bali because we wanted to work online and we wanted to live in a place that was filled with a lot of really cool people. And Bali, I think around the world is kind of just known as this little magical Island.
So there's been lots of challenges and living in a less progressive country for lack of a better term. Just having outdoor kitchens and more mozzies and riding scooters and all of those things, but I think one of the most amazing things about being here is it's very much a hub for like minded people.
We knew no one when we moved here. And now we're surrounded by fellow coaches, podcasters, all online businesses, entrepreneurs, people that are also doing massive things in life. And so that's been a huge accelerator for our own growth as well because you become the summation of the people that you surround yourself with.
And we did that in a very kind of extreme way by literally moving countries.
Ling Yah: And can you tell us how COVID has impacted your life.
Danielle Kettlewell: Actually COVID has been the biggest blessing for us.
I think the beauty of COVID for what we're doing, me and my partner, Luca, is that number one, everyone now knows how to use zoom, which is great, cause we do online coaching .
Number two, people have been slowed down by the world and everyone is taking this moment to realize. Is this really what I want to do with my life? What do I want to change? I think collectively that's happened on a global scale and a lot of people are awakening to what they want their purpose to be.
So it's been this beautiful moment where I coach people on figuring out what they want to do with their life.
So I think COVID has actually been such a big blessing in that stance.
Ling Yah: And what kind of future plans do you have for yourself?
Danielle Kettlewell: Me and Luca are moving to Vancouver in the beginning of September.
We're planning to be there for a little while, but our big goal is to impact the world in a positive way through my coaching, just continuing to show people the power that their life can be when they choose to combine belief with action, because I've done it and I've now helped people do it. So I just want to share that with as many people as possible.
Ling Yah: Before we enter into my final few questions. I have one more, which is looking back at your incredible life and your story. Is there anything that you would have done differently?
Danielle Kettlewell: That's a great question. I wonder what most of your guests say, but I would say nothing. I wouldn't change anything. I'd maybe journal more. But I think honestly, everything happens for a reason.
If I took one thing out, I probably wouldn't be here right now.
Ling Yah: I normally close with these questions, firstly, which is, have you found your why?
Danielle Kettlewell: Hmm. I think so many people talk about finding your why.
And I think that for me, it comes from connecting to my soul.
my why comes from listening to my soul and continuing to do that into what is true for me. And I guess on a different level as well, just making an impact on this world in a positive way. And I'm making sure that it's left in with a little bit of my own magic, so I can make the world a better place when I leave this earth.
Ling Yah: And what kind of legacy do you want to leave behind?
Danielle Kettlewell: That's a really beautiful question. I want to leave a legacy where understanding your limiting beliefs and understanding the power of like vibration and energy and manifestation and understanding the power of like selling self-awareness personal development is so much more widely known that it is taught about at younger levels.
I would love to make an impact on the overall education system , and just showing everyone the power or of what limiting beliefs are and showing power that everyone has a capability in their life to access their highest authentic potential.
And most importantly, enjoy every step of the process because that's the whole point of it all.
Ling Yah: And what'd you think of the most important qualities a person needs to succeed like you have.
Danielle Kettlewell: I think self awareness is extremely important. I think, a level of being able to reflect and having an attitude of gratitude.
Getting yourself out of a victim mindset and understanding that everything's happening to you. Some people calling it, failing fast, the guy that created the Dyson vacuum created like 3,700, failed blueprints before he created the Dyson vacuum that now it's like the whole world knows.
Failing is part of the process. And when you have an attitude of gratitude for the process and understanding, and how the muscle of self awareness to understand what you did well, what you can do better and what you can improve tomorrow and have the perseverance to continue towards that, no matter anyone can be successful.
Success in my definition doesn't mean money is success means fulfillment. Success means making a positive impact on this world. Success means having stillness in my day, success needs having the finances to give back understanding what success means to you, because some people are living the most successful life they ever could.
And living in a suburb with three kids at home, raising beautiful children, and that is success to them. So I think understanding what you define as success. Having a level of self awareness, having an attitude for gratitude and being able to come back to presence within all of it.
Ling Yah: Can you tell people where they can go to find out more about you and connect with the alum more about everything you're offering.
Danielle Kettlewell: You can go to my website, Danielkettlewell.com.
I have the ability for one-on-one coaching. I have some spaces available at the moment. I also have my clarity coach program. if you're wanting to walk through that.
You can follow me on Instagram at Daniel Kettlewell underscore, for just some motivation and knowing what's going on in my life and you know what I do.
And how I help people and how you can help yourself.
And you can find my book on our website and on Amazon.
Ling Yah: Amazing. And is there anything else that you feel people should know about that we haven't talked about yet.
Danielle Kettlewell: Use this podcast as inspiration to be your best self and not as comparison that you're not doing enough.
Sometimes when we can listen to things like this, it's really easy to fall in the comparison mode that we're not doing enough and someone else's great and living all these amazing things. And I think it's really important to know and always come from this perspective, that you are enough right now and you get to continue to improve moving forward.
And you can only compare yourself to who you want to be, not to anyone else, because you have your own special fingerprints to offer this world. Never compare yourself to anyone else.
Ling Yah: And that was the end of episode 12.
The show notes can be found at sothisismywhy.com/12
This includes the transcript and links to everything we just talked about.
Let me know what you've learned by going to Apple Podcasts to leave a review, and also subscribe, and also take a screenshot of today's episode on Instagram and tag me at @sothisismywhy and Danielle at @DanielleKettlewell with the hashtag sothisismywhy.
If you want to hang out, we also have a private Facebook group to keep the conversation going. And some of our podcast guests will also be showing up for a limited time to answer any of your burning questions. To join, just head over to Facebook and look for So This Is My Why.
And stay tuned for episode 13, which drops next Sunday, because we will be chatting with a 15 year old founder of a SAS company, MinorMynas. A mobile app mate by a kid - she was 10 years old when she founded this company - for kids to connect virtually. Creating a platform where children, as young as six years old, come together to discuss topics of interest to them including autism, the pandemic, and even philosophy.
She is truly fascinating. And a true testament to the fact that when you follow your passion, you really can do anything. Age is no barrier.
So stay tuned and see you next Sunday.