When Hannah Cross competed in the trials for Rio 2016, her only goal was to gain experience with her main goal, Tokyo 2020, in mind. The next thing she knew, she was on a plane to Rio as part of the Australian Synchronised swimming team at 19 years of age.
“Even in the lead up to Rio I was thinking ‘this is great that I’m on the senior national team and I’m getting to do all these competitions’ but I was still aiming for 2020 in the back of my head. I wasn’t expecting to be selected for Rio at all.”
Hannah Cross grew up in the northern suburbs of Melbourne and took up swimming and dancing from a young age. After a number of years of being a competitive swimmer, she got bored of swimming laps and went along to a ‘come and try’ day of synchronised swimming at Victoria University. It was then that she fell in love with a sport that combined her first two loves of swimming and dancing.
“I think coming from a swimming and dancing background definitely helped but at the same time it’s a whole new skill to learn.”
Fast forward a couple of years and she was selected for the junior national team.
“When I first started, I thought it would be something fun to do. I got selected for the junior national team (in 2012) and I thought I’d give that a shot and then less than a year later I was selected for the senior national team.”
Her journey to Rio started when she was selected for the games based on her national campaign.
“Mum started screaming on the phone, she was very excited,” Cross laughed. “Everyone was kind of shocked…I was one of the ones that was on the edge, it (could have) gone either way for me but I managed to pull it off.”
Cross says that her main inspiration throughout her career has been her old coach, Tarren Otte, who represented Australia at the Olympics in 2008 and 2012.
“I got to train alongside her and when I first started she was the person I looked up to thinking ‘maybe one day I could get there.’ She was an amazing swimmer.”
In 2016 she followed in the footsteps of her former coach and represented her country on the world stage.
“We didn’t really know what to expect. You get your corny Qantas boarding passes saying you’re going to the Olympics and then the uniform comes…from the moment you get selected there’s just wave after wave of amazing opportunities.”
Usually before a competition, Cross gets very nervous but “Rio was an exception to that.
“The competition is a lot smaller at the Olympics and it felt like there was less pressure…we were just there to give our absolute best performance. I was excited to be there and represent my country.”
One of the most surreal parts of Cross’ Rio experience was just being in the athlete’s village.
“You’d sit in the dining hall and across would be Usain Bolt and Serena Williams. It was crazy to think you’re sitting in the same room as these people but at the same time, you’re all sitting in the same room and you’re all equals.”
Highlight’s of her time in Rio were meeting some Olympic champions in Andy Murray, Serena Williams and Michael Phelps. Cross also got to meet and chat to Princess Mary of Denmark with one of her teammates but her biggest highlight was the opening ceremony.
“It was a dream to be a part of…you walk out and the whole crowd goes crazy. It was such an incredible feeling, I’ve got goose bumps just thinking about it.”
Next in store for Cross and her team is the Budapest World Championships in July and then its full steam ahead to Tokyo in 2020.