By anyone’s definition, Natalie Cook is a driven and passionate woman, juggling multiple passions and talents.
Natalie Cook is a five times Olympian, author, business owner, motivational speaker and charity ambassador. But life for Natalie began in Townsville with early memories running around the local playground barefoot, riding around town on her BMX, getting fish and chips for $1 at the corner store. Fondest of all, she recalls, is “being able to be dirty and being free”.
Self-described as very sporty while growing up, Nat tried her hand at swimming, golf, tennis, and Taekwondo before discovering volleyball. She was quite the creative spirit, enjoying painting, ceramics and sculpture. Despite her multiple talents, the turning point for Natalie’s love of sport came in grade nine at Corinda State High when Nat saw a notice for an overseas volleyball trip. “It was one of the only sports I tried that I couldn’t do,” she reveals. Motivated by the challenge, she set about mastering a sport she confesses didn’t come naturally to her. But her initial lack of ability drove her determination to succeed. After meeting powerhouse partner Kerri Pottharst, the pair formed an unstoppable beach volleyball duo.
Nat says combining their individual abilities and training their minds to “take courageous action”, is what gave the dynamic partnership the edge. Preparation with success coach Kurek Ashley included stunts like fire walking, glass walking, and parachuting, so that when fear and anxiety rose during a match, their immediate reaction was to “do what you are afraid of. We both agreed,” Nat says, “that the most successful people, whether it be in sport or any other part of life, are those who believe in themselves without question – no matter what is going on around them”.
After strict training programs and pushing the limits in preparation, Nat has relaxed into a different pace after her Olympic success. The only low point following her retirement came when she gained ten kilograms as she readjusted to life without the strict training and diet regime. But she is enjoying her newfound freedom, excited by the possibility of doing anything she wants. This includes activities with an element of danger, such as skiing or motorbiking. Not one to slow down for too long, Nat has also refocussed her time into new passions with a belief that she can help others live theirs. Nat remains healthy and happy, and enjoys practicing yoga to maintain that balanced mindset. When talking to Nat, you get a sense of fantastic energy with her passion for helping others. As a motivational speaker, the one thing she wants people to take away is “leaving with the tricks and tools to hold belief at an unstoppable level.”
Photographer: Karl Pearse