NIGEL Stubblety-Cook watched with hands over his face as his son plunged into an Olympic final but said the come-from-behind gold medal win was "bloody great entertainment".
An intensely private family, Mr Stubblety-Cook said son Zac's 200-metre breaststroke gold at the Tokyo Aquatic Centre on Thursday was for Australia - and Ballarat has been a big part of that journey.
Zac Stubblety-Cook, who was raised in Queensland, is the grandson of the late Peter Cook, a well-known primary school teacher and Ballarat Golf Club president and player. Mr Stubblety-Cook said his sister Angela Speechley and her husband Paul, who live in Ballarat, had also given Zac great opportunities and support.
But this was also a moment Mr Stubblety-Cook hoped would help lift spirits everywhere in unusual pandemic times.
"I was quietly confident but when it started, I had my hands in my face - this is the Olympic final," Mr Stubblety-Cook said.
"At the end of the day, it was always just 'go Zac, go'. This is so important for everybody...We've raised a gentleman and Ballarat has been a part of that, it takes a village and that's what it's all about. But this is also just a moment for Zac."
Mr Stubblety-Cook, a St Patrick's College Old Collegian, watched his son make history in the pool from his pub in Cairns, surrounded by close friends. The pub was still pumping late into the afternoon.
Zac entered the 200m breaststroke medal race as favourite as the fastest qualifier and holding the world's quickest time this year.
The 22-year-old turned in fourth spot at the halfway stage and was third with 50 metres to swim. The Australian stormed home to win in two minutes and 6.38 seconds from Arno Kamminga (2:07.01) of the Netherlands and Finland's Matti Mattson (2:07.13).
"You can only be an underdog once, right? I had that luxury," Zac said.
"It was an experienced field but through the heat and semi it was quite exciting that I had a little bit more to give. I was happy enough to be here as this time last year we didn't think the Games were going to happen."
Zac admitted to being slightly unnerved by Dutchman Kamminga's hot pace but stuck to executing his own race plan.
Mr Stubblety-Cook said Zac originally was not keen on taking up swimming but once he got started was deeply committed to improving. Zac would start school with training at 5.30am and be back in the pool after school.
Three years ago, Zac was a heat swimmer in the Commonwealth Games. He won his first international medal, a 200m breaststroke silver, at the Pan Pacs a year later.
Mr Stubblety-Cook said the waves of emotion that came with seeing his son win Olympic gold were indescribable joy.
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