If these 12 months have shown me anything, it is that I am no good at being a spectator.

The competitor inside me, can’t hack it when I am not able to stand on those blocks.

Of course, all that truly matters is I am healthy and back doing what I love most.

The last year has been very challenging; reluctantly, I was forced to withdraw from the 2017 FINA World Championships.

In consultation with the medical staff, I opted to undergo heart surgery for a condition I have; supraventricular tachycardia (SVT).

It certainly wasn’t an easy decision, as I was super keen to head to Budapest with the rest of the Australian swim team.

Ultimately, the surgery was deemed to be in my best interest and would be beneficial to my long-term swimming career.

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It wasn’t actually the first time I had gone under the knife for my heart condition, nor the first time it has prevented me from competing at a World Championships.

In 2015, I had the same open heart procedure; unfortunately at that time, they were unable to burn the part of my heart that they needed to, in a bid to fix the problem.

Nonetheless, having been through the surgery and rehab process before, I knew exactly what the second time around was going to look like.

Thankfully, Swimming Australia still allowed for me to head to Budapest and immerse myself around the rest of the team.

This is when I truly found out how much I hated being a spectator.

As a mate, I was rapt to see so many of my good friends post such incredible times in the pool. Every member of the Australian swim squad work so hard and deserve all the accolades that come their way.

But as a competitor… oh it was tough having to sit there and watch some of the guys turn in the performances they were, and not be in a position to challenge their efforts.

In many ways, it was almost the motivation I needed.

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Winning an Olympic gold medal at the age of 18 was remarkable. For a long while after, I had everything thrown at me; sponsorship, media duties, event access and guest appearances.

It was great to be in a position to feel valued, but equally also give back and say thanks to everyone for their support.

I would have people stopping me on the streets to get photos and autographs, and it was quite a shock to me.

I became really complacent with it all. But as soon as I saw how fast those guys were swimming at Budapest, to the point where they were also swimming faster times than me, was when I knew I really kick into gear again.

I knew that it wasn’t going to be enough to simply come back and get healthy; if I was going to enjoy a successful comeback against these guys, then I needed to take my game to another level.

So it has been a long journey since the Olympics, but despite it all, I feel really confident about where my mind and body is currently placed in the lead-in to the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast.

The biggest thing for me, is that I am able to stand behind the blocks again for Australia and swim wearing the green and gold.

Swimming Australia recently arranged for a number of former Olympians to come and speak with us about the magnitude of competing at a World Games on home soil, with some of those swimmers having competed at the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games.

They were able to share with us their experiences and what we can expect.

While I fully respect what is to come, the thought of competing in front of big crowds is a massive driver for me; I’ve always looked to embrace pressure and seize the moment.

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And although our nation has such a rich history when it comes to our swimming, I don’t feel too much pressure or responsibility to perform and carry on their legacy.

I’m someone who looks to keep things as calm and relaxed as possible when it comes to competition, because I trust that on the day I will do my absolute best to reach the finishing wall before anyone else.

The thought of having to do that on a Commonwealth Games stage doesn’t change that.

And in actual fact, there is no greater prep than having already competed at the Olympics.

I’ve experienced life in the athletes village, where there is big food halls and people from all different sports; it’s a unique environment but you just have to stay locked in at all times.

My time is now and I want to make these games as memorable as possible.

I’m focused on helping Australia celebrate medal success, and hopefully I can write my name in the history books in the process.

All I know is that I won’t be spectating from the stands at these races.