TP TALKS TO... Eamon Sullivan

by Travelling Peach

Growing up, swimming at an international level never crossed my mind; let alone that it was a possible career. I enjoyed it and one thing led to another. It sounds like a casual approach but it was that simple. When I was younger, I wasn’t as driven as I am now so I didn’t think about making it to that level or even fully understand was involved so, when I made the Olympic team aged 18, it was a total surprise. Going into the time trial, I hadn’t thought about making the team, I’d just thought ‘I want to swim the fastest’ and, as simple as that, I ended up being the youngest male on the team. After that, I kept surprising myself with my performance. I kept improving, breaking World Records… but, even then, I never thought ‘I want to win this event. I want to break that record.’ That happened later into my career. Initially, I just enjoyed swimming and wanted swim the fastest.

‘Swimming competitively happened naturally for me. Right place, right time.’

I don’t know why I enjoyed training so much when I was younger… waking up early, training for 3 hours before school and again afterwards. Looking back, I was very lucky to be on such a big squad with some of my best friends. That made it a lot easier. It wasn’t just about swimming; I actually wanted to get up early to hang out with them every morning for fun. That developed into natural banter and competitive spirit; us pushing each other by trying to beat each other in races and relays. The hard work came from the good team atmosphere we had, not from being forced, so it was a positive motivator. You work hard, you hang out, you stay fit and you have fun - we had the best of both worlds. It wasn’t until I made my first Olympic team that I thought ‘Right, this can be my career. I really want to beat the other swimmers around the world’ and that changed my motivation completely.


‘The best thing about swimming is the travelling. You meet friends from all over the world and whenever you go back to those places… Paris, Barcelona, Italy…  there are always people who’ll show you around and make you feel at home. You create an incredible worldwide network of friends, which is one of those great things that you wouldn’t have had if that opportunity hadn’t come along.’



CINQUE TERRE, ITALY. Italy has some great swimming training camps and being a swimmer and loving carbs, some delicious food too. We spent the most amazing weekend in Cinque Terre, which has some beautiful little ports and villages dotted across the Italian Riviera coastline. Jumping off the ports, swimming around the cliffs and basking in the sun… It was a lot of fun.

MONTE CARLO & BARCELONA are super cool. The have the most incredible beaches and the whole atmospheres are so glamorous and lively. Very different to what we have back home.

PERTH, AUSTRALIA. I love living in Australia because the scenery, especially in Perth, is beautiful and the beaches are full of white sands and great waves. Lots of fresh delicious seafood, watersports and sunshine. There’s nowhere better.

LAKE MAGGIORE, SWITZERLAND. Lake Maggiore is stunning. Surrounded by the mountains, with beautiful clear air and open spaces, there’s so much to explore. Hiking, biking, rowing, swimming…We found an amazing spot just off a brick wall beside an abandoned warehouse. The buildings were right on the water so you could just run and jump off into the lake. A really lovely place.


The interesting (slash frustrating from my part) thing about my career was that I was injured for most of it. That was my biggest obstacle. I had 5 hip operations, 3 shoulder operations, over 40 injections... In 2004/5, I competed in The Nationals 8 weeks following major surgery and 8 weeks before Beijing 2008 I subluxed a vertebra on my back; then, at London 2012 I was awaiting shoulder surgery heading into the meets so it was a constant challenge to stay confident going enough to get up and race to win knowing that I’d never had the preparation I wanted. That happened throughout my entire career. I was constantly injured in one way or another so, forget other athletes, my biggest competitor was my mental state and trying to stay positive. 

That’s the thing that I’m most proud of: despite all the injuries, I never gave up and I still managed to swim fast, break World Records and win medals. Sport taught me that you’ve always got two options in life: 1) you can give in when times get tough or 2) you can find another way to achieve what you want to. It might be a little bit different and something you hadn’t thought of but the ‘normal’ route isn’t the only route.

‘It probably gave you an ace up your sleeve because all the other swimmers would be scared if they got injured or worried about getting injured whereas you were fearless because it was your normality.’ Definitely. It’s been like that ever since I first started competing so, to me, it was normal. Ironically, it probably suited my big event because, being a sprinter, the less I swam, the faster I swam. It’s something I didn’t realize until later into my career but I really wish I’d discovered it sooner. I only realized when I physically couldn’t swim for long periods of time; that’s when I got into sprinting.

I once swam a 200m freestyle and, afterwards, my coach accused me of not trying. I swore at him, telling him that I was going to move squads because he didn’t believe that I’d tried my hardest and I didn’t want to swim there. From that day on, I never swam a 200m again and I started doing more sprint appropriate training, which was when I really saw the benefits. After London 2012, I took 18 months off to have 2 shoulder operations but what surprised everyone was that the next time I competed I’d only been training again for 6 months (and that was rehabilitation and readjustment training so I was doing 25% of the training I’d previously done) and, out of nowhere, I scored a personal best. It changed my whole way of thinking.

‘It’s horrible at the time but I suppose it gave you an edge. You won so many medals and World Records, which is incredible, especially considering you were injured against people who weren’t. It’s similar to British Boxing Champion Frank Buglioni. He was on the Olympic training team and one of the main reasons he left was because he went to a training camp and contracted Typhoid. When he returned, Anthony Ogogo had overtaken him so he had a choice between always chasing him and waiting for his opportunity whilst he was injured or he could leave and go pro and that’s what he did. He says that it really killed him at the time but it was definitely the best decision for him.’

It’s very cliché but I don’t have a favourite swimmer. I loved racing against anyone who was faster than me because it was an opportunity to beat them. That’s my competitive streak. I always wanted to beat the people in front of me and, in a way, it was always the easiest way because I had nothing to lose. It’s not until you’re the one in front that all of a sudden you have something to lose. It completely changes your perspective on things; instead of racing to beat people, you’re racing not to lose which is quite stressful. Most people ignore that fact but, until you get there, you don’t realize how big a difference it makes.


I love cooking homely comfort food and snacky all-day breakfast foods; things that make people happy. They’re definitely the most fun, both to cook and eat; and how the idea for our restaurants Maystreet Larder and Bib & Tucker came about. My business partner, chef Scott Bridger, makes an incredible salt sandwich. It’s on the menu at Maystreet Larder and has parmesan cheese, waffles, fried chicken, chilli maple syrup, smoked sour cream and jalapenos – absolutely delicious! It’s my ultimate naughty pleasure. I love Cocowhip too. It’s essentially ice cream but it’s made from coconut water and probiotics so it’s refined sugar free. There’s significantly less sugar in one serving of cocowhip than one jellybean so it’s a way to have the guilty pleasure without the guilt.

‘Naughty food is delicious. I spent so long not eating it so, now that I can eat it whenever I want, I LOVE deep fried chicken, ribs and all that bad stuff.’

The duck ragu. Pulled duck, homemade pasta and a rich, tasty jus… it's almost like a deconstructed duck lasagna. Now that the colder weather is approaching, I’m really loving wholesome comfort foods that are healthy but make you feel warm and happy. This is perfect.

The Hive. We have some beehives on the roof of the restaurant where Scott and I harvest our own honey for the desserts. We’re both big fans of knowing where our food comes from so we’ve put a lot of work into meeting local producers and sourcing local ingredients; we even grow our own produce to ensure that everything on the menu is as sustainable and fresh as possible.


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