Olympic swimmer Cate Campbell's brother Hamish is non-verbal, vision-impaired and unable to walk as a result of severe cerebral palsy - he's also key to helping her navigate the pressure-cooker world of elite sport.

Hamish, 22, one of five Campbell siblings, including Olympic sprinters Cate and Bronte, has the developmental capacity of an 18 month old after a traumatic birth in Malawi, where the family lived at the time.

His health challenges are such he receives palliative care and needs to be within close contact of a hospital "at all times".

Olympic swimmer Cate Campbell with her brother Hamish, 22. Photo: Supplied
Olympic swimmer Cate Campbell with her brother Hamish, 22. Photo: Supplied


As Campbell has trained her body into a fine-tuned machine capable of producing world records, Hamish needs 24/7 care from their parents Jenny and Eric at the family home in Brisbane.

"My parents were very good at never making us think that Hamish should have been any other way than he was," she said in an interview with the Courier-Mail.

"He's always been a really integral part of the family."

Cate Campbell and her mum Jenny. Photo: Jamie Hanson.
Cate Campbell and her mum Jenny. Photo: Jamie Hanson.

When things have been tough in her swimming career - as they have this year with COVID-19 forcing the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics - having Hamish in her life provides perspective.

"A big part of who I am and why I continue to swim and overcome setbacks comes from growing up with Hamish," she said.

"The fact that sometimes life is just unfair and that's not a reflection on you or whether or not you're a good person.

"I think that the ability to move on from disappointments and put bad things behind you definitely comes from having someone with a special need so closely related to me, both through watching him and then watching my family's reaction."

Campbell, who lives and trains in Sydney, has an envious Olympic record, with five medals, including two gold, a silver and two bronze from three Games.

Three-times Olympic swimmer Cate Campbell. Photo: Darren England, AAP.
Three-times Olympic swimmer Cate Campbell. Photo: Darren England, AAP.

The 28-year-old three-times Olympian went into the Rio Games in 2016 as the 100m freestyle world record holder but finished sixth in the final after swimming the first 25m of the race too fast.

Four years on, she talks about pushing herself to be the best she can be but also being grateful for "everything that comes your way because there are a lot of people who have it a lot worse than you".

"I am fully aware of how privileged I am, firstly to be able bodied but also … to live in a first-world country like Australia," she said.

"Everyone runs into difficulties. The circumstances that you find yourself in, it's how you respond to those circumstances that ultimately changes your life.

"It's about recognising tough situations and choosing to move forward and not be bitter about things you can't control. There's a saying: 'You can either be bitter or you can get better'.

"I think that's something that's been instilled in us from a very young age."

The Campbell family: Back row from left: Abigail, 19, Mum Jenny, Olympian Bronte, 26, Jessica, 24. Front Row: Hamish, 22, Dad Eric and three-times Olympian Cate, 28. Photo: Supplied.
The Campbell family: Back row from left: Abigail, 19, Mum Jenny, Olympian Bronte, 26, Jessica, 24. Front Row: Hamish, 22, Dad Eric and three-times Olympian Cate, 28. Photo: Supplied.

Her challenge leading in to the Tokyo Olympics, scheduled to start on July 23 next year, is getting race fit between now and then.

"There won't be any international competition for Australians for the foreseeable future," she said.

"But we are incredibly lucky to still be able to still train so that's a real positive.

"When I look at the state of places like Europe at the moment, and what's going on in America, it makes me very grateful.

"Even though I'm not doing all the usual things like racing that I would be doing in an Olympic prep, I can do most of them, which is a pretty good compromise."

Campbell has appeared as a guest on Feros Care's Grow Bold with Disability podcast, talking candidly about life with Hamish.

To access the podcast: feroscare.com.au/grow-bold-podcast

Originally published as 'Sometimes life is just unfair': Brother driving Campbell's success



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