Just seven months ago ... Alicia Coutts and Lauren Gillan, with ginger kittens Mexico, Gingy, and Killer. Photo: Rohan Thomson
It was only a couple of weeks ago that London Olympics gold medallist Alicia Coutts was clearing out kitty litter trays at the RSPCA ACT shelter at Weston.
The Canberra-based swimmer has worked in the cattery at the RSPCA for four days a week for almost two years.
Her workmates know her more as a passionate cat lover than world-beating swimmer, single-handedly contributing four of the nine medals Australia had up to yesterday at the Olympics, giving her a higher medal count than most countries.
Alicia Coutts' ACT RSPCA workmates, from left, holding the silver cat "London" Hannah Mostead, holding the gold cat "Olympus" Belinda Gibbs, and holding the bronze cat "Arty" Lauren Gillan. Photo: Karleen Minney
Cattery supervisor Belinda Gibbs and fellow workers Lauren Gillan and Hannah Mostead have been following Coutts' progress at the Olympics, with the Australian Institute of Sport scholarship holder so far boasting a gold, two silver and a bronze.
They say the star swimmer is down-to-earth and doesn't mind doing the dirty jobs such as cleaning out the kitty litter trays.
''Oh, no, she's into it,'' Ms Gibbs said with a laugh.
Alicia Coutts shows off one of her silver medals. Photo: Getty Images
Miss Gillan said, ''she's very dedicated to her job'', agreeing Coutts had a big heart and tried to save as many cats as possible.
RSPCA ACT chief executive Michael Linke said Coutts approached the animal welfare organisation to ask for a job in November 2010.
''She had a passion for cats and she was looking for a job that was flexible for her training and competitions,'' he said.
''She does everything all the other girls do. She feeds and waters the cats, cleans out the kitty litter, socialises the cats.'' In honour of Coutts, the RSPCA cattery staff posed with a gold, silver and bronze cat yesterday, giving two unnamed moggies the timely monikers of Olympus and London. (Bronze cat Arty was already named.)
''We're going to have a welcome home function for her as well,'' Mr Linke said.
And it doesn't stop there.
The RSPCA shelter at Weston is hosting the Doggie Olympics on Sunday from 12.30pm to 3.30pm.
There will be canine-friendly events such as hurdles, sprints, weight-lifting and other track and field events.
Entry is $10. To register email firstname.lastname@example.org and include your dog's name, breed and the country in which the breed originated. Spectators welcome.