Race To London

Revealing documentary depicts the sacrifices made for the Olympic dream.

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MICHAEL KLIM, 34, came out of retirement last year, with the hope of competing in the London Olympic Games. He features in the ABC series Race to London along with Libby Trickett, Ahmed Kelly, Drew Ginn, Grace Bowman and Ryley Batt.

Why did you agree to take part in this documentary?

So that one day I could reflect back on it. I've never really had much media attention and to have a camera crew following you for a year made things a little harder.

Why stage a comeback at all?

It was around 2007 when I announced my retirement, but three years later I was still in shape, running, cycling and swimming - to keep me sane more than anything. Being an athlete was my identity and I just started to wonder if I could get back in there and see what I could do.

You married [Balinese princess] Lindy Rama in 2006 and now have three children. Your life's changed quite a bit, hasn't it?

It has, but I wanted to show my kids my dedication and they got to see me swim at a higher level in Adelaide, which was great. I put aside 18 months to train and I think when people watch Race to London they'll see it's very much a team effort. Lindy probably made the biggest sacrifice of all. She was basically a single mother for the whole time. Even when I was physically present, I was tired. It wasn't just a personal decision. There were times I really needed to be pulled back into line. I can get very obsessive about my sport.

Could you have done it without their support?

You need everyone, coaches, physios - but in terms of moral support, I really think you need people who are close to you. I think there'd be very few athletes who could do it alone. For me, it was great to come home to Lindy and the kids and share how the day went. Obviously talking to the camera during the documentary let me express a lot of emotions; that's not something I've ever done before.

Can you get addicted to winning?

Definitely. That feeling of success is probably the best natural high you can get. When you put in so much time and effort, it's that sense of reward and the adoration you get. It also impacts on the whole team, so when you win, it's fulfilling for everybody involved.

What did you learn from your comeback?

This experience has taught me to accept that I'm not good at everything, even though I want to be [laughs]. It's pride, I guess, but that comes with a competitive swimming career. I'm more laidback now. Lindy thinks I didn't get through because this time around I was a much nicer guy! It's hard to hang on to that level of intensity regardless of your career because it just burns you out. Before I retired the first time I got to a stage where things just weren't working and I was a very frustrated and angry person. If you can find some balance in your life, it's much better.

You're not going to the London Olympics as an athlete. How did you cope with that?

I'm at peace with that now. When I started training after retirement, there was never any guarantee I'd

get back to where I was. The whole experience was rewarding. It's strange because when I retired the first time I had a heavy heart but

this time around was very different. There's no stone unturned now. I have great friendships with my trainer, swim partners and coach and those connections never go away.

Will you go to London anyway?

I'm on the Sunrise panel for the first week of swimming and hopefully I'll get over for the second week. I love the sport, so it would be great to see the Aussie guys win the 400x100-metre relay like we did 12 years ago. That would be amazing.

Race to London
ABC1, Tuesday, 8pm