Emma McKeon had spent four years building to this point.
Thousands of kilometres following a black line as she swam up and down the swimming pool. Countless hours in the gym. All the injuries and physio sessions, the time trials and the racing.
It was all planned down to the finest detail to ensure McKeon would have the best shot at winning Olympic gold when she arrived in Tokyo in July.
And it was working.
Her last races prior to the coronavirus shutdown were some of her best. She beat Cate Campbell in a 100 metre freestyle race for the first time in her career. She swam a blisteringly quick 100m butterfly at the NSW Championships.
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Then the inevitable became reality and the Olympics were postponed.
All that work over four years had come to nought. McKeon was understandably devastated.
"When the Olympics did get postponed, I was really upset," McKeon said.
"I felt so ready. I felt like I was training the best I've ever trained, racing the best I've ever raced at that time of year, in March. So I was pretty upset to not be able to see that in Tokyo."
With the news of a rescheduled Olympics still raw, the Gold Coast-based athlete returned home to Wollongong to reset and refresh.
Having pushed herself to the limit for the past four years, McKeon recognised a break was exactly what she needed before she retooled and started her campaign to the 2021 Olympics.
With pools closed to help combat the spread of COVID-19, the butterfly star was able to mix up her training routine to maintain a base level of fitness.
Weight training took on a greater role at a makeshift home gym, while she also took up running.
McKeon kept the arms ticking over in the water, joining older brother David for a number of ocean swims.
While David has embraced the surf through his recovery from shoulder surgery 18 months ago, Emma has preferred to stick to the pool.
Despite the unfamiliarity of the ocean, she found the opportunity to dive into Wollongong's beaches refreshing, in more ways than one.
"It's been nice, I had to have this time off. Now that it's over a year away, you can't just keep going, especially when I thought I would be competing at the Olympics in two months time.
"I definitely needed the mental break and the physical break as well.
"Knowing it's another year of hard training, it's been nice to spend it here in Wollongong with my family, have them close by for support, and now some restrictions are lifted, it's been nice catching up with some friends."
While athletes across most sports have taken this time away from competition to hit reset before they recommence their Olympic preparations, the importance of doing so is magnified for swimmers.
The emotional and mental toll the sport takes on its elite are well-documented. Ian Thorpe, Grant Hackett and Leisel Jones have all spoken of the struggles they experienced throughout, and after, their careers.
While McKeon has not endured the challenges some of her peers have, she recognises the mental nature of swimming is tougher to negotiate than the physical aspect.
Jumping in the water and swimming up and down is the easy part. Managing the self-doubt, the frustration, the pressure of taking on the world's best. That's the hard part.
"For me the mental aspect is the biggest challenge," McKeon said.
"I know I can work hard and I've got a great group of people around me helping me, my family, friends, coach, everyone I work with on the Gold Coast.
"The work side of things is hard, but I know I can do that. The mental side, that's always a challenge in anything you do."
With her ability to improve physically restricted throughout the coronavirus lockdown, McKeon has taken time to work on those mental skills.
Regular sessions with a sports psychologist have allowed the four-time Olympic medalist to identify strategies to manage the internal doubts that are likely to arise throughout the next 12 months.
"Even though I'm not able to swim, I'm able to work on the mental side of things, which will be a big advantage when I am getting back into it," McKeon said.
"Mentally, I feel pretty good now about the Olympics being a year away. That's not a challenge for me anymore, but there are always things to improve on, the mental side of things is one of those areas.
"Once you get to performing at major meets, it's quite natural for doubts to come into your head even though you've done all the work and there's nothing else you can do.
"I want to get to the Olympics and not have doubts come into my head. That's just your mind playing games, you've done everything you can to prepare."
After a break from the pool, it eventually became time for McKeon to commence her journey to Tokyo 2021.
The start of that process brought a fresh mindset. The disappointment at what could have been in 2020 replaced by a sense of excitement.
So when the Rio Olympian returned to the swimming pool earlier this month, she had a renewed sense of purpose.
Yes, she is facing a daunting 14 months of training and racing. Yes, a long, tough slog remains. But the carrot at the end is even bigger.
And McKeon will be doing what she loves to get there.
"After a week or two of relaxing and being back with my family, letting things settle, I was able to put it in perspective. I know I'm in the best shape of my life and I'm only going to get better.
"It's about being patient really, everyone's gone through difficult times and challenges and we will have more to come. It's been nice to take a step back, relax and hit refresh.
"For me, swimming is what I love doing. That's the easy part. I just need to keep working hard and keep the mental side in perspective throughout the next year."
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