Carlton AFLW player and Australian Olympian Chloe Dalton recently launched a podcast called ‘The Female Athlete Project‘. She spoke to aflplayers.com.au about why she wanted to focus on female athletes, what the experience has taught her and the road to Tokyo 2021.
Kavisha Di Pietro: You recently launched the Female Athlete Project. How did the concept for the podcast come together?
Chloe Dalton: It was something that I thought about doing for a while and I love the idea of getting the chance to chat to other athletes, even for my own development. Because I had a little bit more time on my hands with COVID, I finally had a bit of a kick up the bum to get it done, which was good.
It’s actually been a lot more work than what I was expecting and it’s taking up a fair bit of time, but I’ve been learning heaps of new skills.
The podcast is about interviewing Australia’s female athletes and having a bit of a chat to them about their stories and their journey. It’s a bit of a platform as well for them and me to contribute to a more equitable future and try to give a bit more of a limelight to those stories of the women that are pioneering different sports in Australia and across the globe.
Your Rugby Sevens teammate Ellia Green and Olympic diver Melissa Wu were your guests on the first two episodes. What have they taught you?
It was good to start with Ellia, who is a close friend and teammate. Because it was my very first podcast as well, I wanted to start with someone I knew and so that if I stuffed it up it wouldn’t matter (laughs).
Ellia is quite a well-known figure in the rugby world for her strength and power, but off-field she’s incredibly warm, lovely and genuine. I think there are people who wouldn’t really know that side of her and who don’t necessarily see that. That was one of the bits I loved being able to share – chatting to her about her backstory and experiences about being adopted in Fiji and then growing up in Australia and what sport was able to do for her identity. Ellia and I have the common ground as well as having gone to the Olympics together in Rio, so it was cool to be able to have a chat about that as well and what that experience was like for us.
Melissa was another interesting one. I think a lot of people watch diving when it’s on at the Olympics, but don’t know much about it outside of that cycle. I had a lot of questions around their preparation and how they train for synchronized diving. There’s so much unknown attention to detail that goes into their training and so I felt that was what I wanted to tap into.
Melissa has made such a long career out of diving, she started at her first Commonwealth Games when she was around 13 and she’s in her late 20s now. As an athlete, myself, I was interested in knowing about what she does to keep her body in good shape.
You’ve had experiences competing in both domestic sport (AFLW) and on an international stage as well. What have those different experiences taught you?
There’s a few differences I’ve experienced across the two sports. The biggest one is definitely being a full-time athlete versus being a part-time one. I’m very fortunate now being back at rugby and being able to be a full-time athlete as that’s something I love. Having the opportunity as well to play on the world stage is indescribable, particularly at the Olympics and bringing home the gold medal like we did in Rio in 2016. I find it quite difficult to describe that moment.
Coming back home and being able to play AFLW was an entirely different experience, but one I’m really grateful for. Moving to Melbourne (from Sydney) and seeing how much everyone embraces football was really special and to see the game growing and be a part of that growth is something I’ll continue to cherish. One of those highlights was the AFLW Grand Final in Adelaide. Even though it wasn’t the result we wanted, it was the largest attendance at a female sporting event prior to this year’s Women’s Cricket World Cup final.
There have been so many women who have paved the way for us and I’m very fortunate to be part of a generation that’s moving forward in terms of female athletes becoming more professional and having greater opportunities.
Speaking of moving forward, your introduction talks about females receiving equal coverage in the media and being recognized for their achievements and not gender, which I think is something that’s important. What can we do better as a community to move towards that?
I think that there’s a really big difference in the expectation that’s placed on female athletes for the level of funding, support, media coverage, training and all of these other elements that go into it compared to their male counterparts.
I would love to see more support from the grassroots level, and we’ve seen that recently from an AFLW perspective. It’s the younger girls that are coming through now and who have had the opportunity to play throughout their whole lives and go through those pathways that are going to make such a big difference to the sport. You can already see the benefits that development and prior experience has to their game when they’re drafted.
I’d also love to see a shift in attitude to not have that competition between the men and women. The way we’ve grown up and the access to different opportunities we’ve had has been so different and that’s a big part of appreciating where we are now, the game for what it is and how much potential it has.
If you could have one guest on your podcast – attainable or not attainable – who would it be?
I would love to get Ash Barty on. I’m a massive fan and was watching her all over the Grand Final coverage. She seems like an absolute legend.
Away from the podcast world you’re preparing for your second Olympics at the postponed Tokyo games. How have you coped with the unknown of this year?
It was a pretty tricky period for a lot of people earlier this year. The AFLW competition and the Olympics were cancelled within 48 hours of each other so for me it was a bit of a challenging week. I was just thinking, ‘What on earth is going to happen moving forward?’
I gave myself a bit of time to adjust. As an athlete, you’re often told to move straight onto the next goal after something happens, but for me it was important to acknowledge the loss (of the season and the Olympics) and change that I was facing. To sit with what for a while I think has allowed me to get into a new mindset and get ready for the Olympics next year.
It’s been awesome being back home in Sydney and seeing my family and friends. Being back in the Rugby 7s environment has been awesome too. The intensity of training is high and hard work but it’s been great. Fingers-crossed we can get to Tokyo next year.
What does your time between now and Tokyo 2021 look like?
I would love to get the chance to play a couple of international games early next year before the Olympics but that’s all dependent on what happens with the borders. Otherwise, we’ll be training full time in Sydney and getting ourselves as prepared as we can.
What does it mean to have the opportunity to attend your second Olympic games?
That was a big part of my decision (to go back to rugby). When my Rugby Sevens coach John Manenti called me while I was playing at Carlton and we spoke about the chance to come back. The Olympics is such a big opportunity and as a kid I watched all these dual athletes like (basketballer) Lauren Jackson and it is such an incredible achievement. For that to be something I could potentially do was too good not to take.
That much success over such a sustained period of time has always inspired me, so to have the chance to do that myself and hopefully win another gold medal was another drawcard. If we do go, it will naturally look very different to Rio but to be able to represent Australia at that level is something I am incredibly honored to have the opportunity to do so again.