Brianna Throssell on Leadership, Ambition and Women in Sport

Swimming | Published: Wed 3 April 2019

At just 23, there is much more to Olympic swim star Brianna Throssell than meets the eye. As she seeks selection on another major Dolphins team for the FINA World Championships in Korea next July, behind her already is a well-advanced Physiotherapy degree and a fast expanding start-up business which originally piqued from nothing more than a personal interest in fashion.


The UWA West Coast club member will compete at the Australian Swimming Championships in Adelaide next week, a pre-cursor to the June Selection Trials in Brisbane, from which Australia’s travelling team for World Championships will be formed.


She has established a small army of fans out in the west since first making a splash as a junior in 2014, when competing at the Youth Olympic Games in China, she returned home with an incredible seven medal haul.


In the years since, she’s added world championship caps, a debut at the Rio Olympic Games, and just last year, was a member of the Australian women’s 4x200m freestyle relay team that won gold at a home Commonwealth Games.


What hasn’t changed over that time however, is that she remains the same humble and gracious person she was when she started.


She says she would offer her then teenage self some advice now on her journey ahead. It would simply be focused on self-belief.


"You can’t buy confidence,” was her instant reply.


"It comes from taking note of what you do in the pool, from pushing times or completing this or that, and I think you just have to take confidence in the small things in the everyday training environment.”



But with success comes profile. She has over 17 thousand Instagram followers and is one the most recognisable faces out of the WA Institute of Sport. Throssell says she wouldn’t promote herself as a role model, but neither does she feel encumbered by any of the expectations that come as part of being an elite athlete.


"I’d never feel burdened by that kind of thing, but I guess I wouldn’t really classify myself as a role model either,” she explained.


"I guess it’s always in the back of my mind. I always have to think about what I post, what I say, what I do in public. The idea of being a role model appeals to me and I’d like to set a good example both in and out of the water.”


Quizzed on whether she felt the negative side of social media placed a harsher spotlight on athletes, particularly younger females, she responded with an insightful example that refocused the issue. In doing so, she referenced the online trolling of Carlton AFLW star Tayla Harris and the racial abuse of Eagles AFL Premiership star Liam Ryan. But instead of dwelling on the negative, she highlighted the enormity of the public support that centred back on the individual.


"If we take two examples of things that have happened recently, if we look at Tayla and we look at Liam, one was female, one was male, both from the same sport and I think the support that surrounded both of them equally, was incredible.”



She extended her point on equality in sport and acknowledged the boost in profile for women’s sport individually, but championed swimming’s role in having long strived for parity.


"I feel like in swimming, it is so equal, both for men and women. I can only comment based on what I’ve seen in the media but I think it’s so fantastic that we now have women’s cricket with the Big Bash and the women’s AFLW now being broadcast and that sort of thing but fortunately I am from a sport where absolutely everything is equal.”


And her point resonates strongly. In swimming for every Kyle Chalmers, there is Cate Campbell. For every Mack Horton, there is Emily Seebohm and for each Eamon Sullivan, there has been a Brianna Throssell and many others like her.


When we look for the nation’s medal tally in Tokyo next year, it won’t break into men’s and women’s, it’ll simply list Australia. And there has always been power in that.


With Tokyo now fast approaching the one-year countdown, Throssell opened up on her future plans and revealed her thoughts on retirement.


"For the past few years I’ve always said I am so done after Tokyo, time to focus on other things in my life, but if someone was to say to me in 17 months you’re going to be retiring I’d be like I am nowhere near ready to retire,” she said.


"So I guess Paris 2024 is on the cards provided my body holds up, injury, illness that sort of thing, you never know what’s around the corner but I wouldn’t count out 2024.”


What that response doesn’t reflect however is that Throssell hasn’t neglected her post swimming career. She’s currently completing a Physiotherapy degree from the University of Notre Dame and she hopes one day, to set up her own personal private practice.


She is also the creative brain behind start up business West Coast Dress Hire, which she admits takes up quite a lot of her valuable spare time.



"I wouldn’t say this business was to do with broadening my interests, it was more of a hobby initially and it’s just such an increasing market in Australia for dress hire, so I started West Coast Dress Hire and it has literally just grown from there.”


Longer term, and not unlike her swimming, she has set no limits on where the years ahead might take her.


"I guess the idea of West Coast Dress Hire being Australia-wide and opening up in multiple states would be amazing, but maybe that’s more of a dream, I wouldn’t say it’s a goal.


"But things change, you never know what opportunities may pop up in the near future.


In the immediate future however, is swimming. And it starts at the Australian Swimming Championships in Adelaide on April 7.