Shrouded in Gold
Nat Cook

It started with a noticeboard and finished with 2 Olympic Medals.  Nat Cook, an out Lesbian and the only Australian woman to compete in 5 Olympic Games.

What exactly was it about beach volleyball that made it your sport? I’ve read that you had early dreams of being a swimmer?

I swam because my mum was a swimming teacher and coming from Townsville, it was boiling, so it was the thing that every kid did. I got sick of the black line! And it wasn’t interactive. So there was a notice on the school noticeboard that said ‘Volleyball – Trip to Canada and America’. That was the thing that got me interested in volleyball. I just wanted to go overseas. And then once I played the sport I fell in love with it…I wasn’t very good at playing with others! (Laughs) I think I was too intense for a lot of my teammates. Fortunately, I found Kerri Pottharst. I could do every sport except volleyball. I wasn’t very good at it.

You’ve said that you would visualise winning before competitions. How powerful is visualisation?

When you’re at the Olympic level, I think it’s the essential part. That’s the philosophy behind how Kerri Pottharst and I won our Gold Medal. Every day we’d wake up and say, ‘We’re Gold Medalists’. We even surrounded ourselves with gold.

How would you describe the moment you won a Gold Medal?

The happiest, most exciting time of your life, but you feel every emotion you handled in the lead-up of 4 years…it’s like fireworks.

Have you had much LGBTI youth reach out to you and say how much easier it’s been to come out because you’re out?

You’d think that would happen. But what I get is more of the parents of the youth. In London…a lady came running over…(and) tells me how helpful I’ve been for her daughter. I don’t get a lot of youth reach out – maybe because they’re intimidated, which they don’t have to be

You’ve been with your partner for 13 years now. Did you meet through beach volleyball?

We met after the Sydney Olympics. I went back on tour in 2001 because volleyball was how I made my living. Sarah was on tour playing for Canada. Ironically, I invited her and her partner to come to Australia to train because Canada was too cold, and that’s how it started. There was no hidden agenda in the beginning, but ah, (Laughs) it grew from there!

lotl may issueDo you and Sarah want kids?

Absolutely. We’ve been in the process since I retired in London (in 2012). We’ve got two godsons now, and we love them to death; we can imagine what it will be like to have our own. So hopefully, we’ll have news in the coming months that we have a child.

Have you encountered any homophobia professionally?

Although I’ve had fleeting moments of wondering whether that was why I didn’t get a sponsorship… I’ve never had anything confronting. But I don’t attract that energy. My space is so positive that any homophobia won’t get close.


The Interview was published in LOTL’s May 2014 Sports Issue.