Steve Cornelius is a familiar face on the Gold Coast swimming circuit, having been involved in both competing and coaching for over 20 years.
Having been diagnosed with prostrate cancer and overcoming the odds to continue doing what he loves, the local legend is showing no signs of slowing down, introducing a festival of open swim to the Gold Coast in 2019.
We sat down for a chat with Steve about the change of lifestyle and nutrition he attributes to his bounce back to health and his incredible career to date.
How long have you been a Gold Coast local?
I moved here from Perth in 1989.
What do you love most about our city?
Of course, I love the beaches being an open water swimmer and – surprisingly – the winters. It’s all blue skies during the day and rain at night. I find winters the best part of the year!
You’re a well-known local swim coach, talk us through your career?
I’ve been a swimmer my entire life – I grew up winning state championships. I’ve won a gold medal in the March Past for surf lifesaving and represented WA in the state team as a professional swimmer in 1980. I’ve been in the surf movement for the last 10 years – just meeting people and pursuing my latest passion (open water swimming). This all started after my diagnosis with prostate cancer in 2011. After I received my diagnosis, I decided I needed to do something constructive with my life – and it was after I got my prostate removed that I decided to develop the open water swim scene on the Gold Coast. There’s a huge following of open water swimming in Perth and Sydney, but here on the Coast, there’s only ever been a handful of races. I decided it was my job to establish the open water swim scene on the Coast, so I opened an open water swim club and introduced a 10k swim from Burleigh Heads to Surfers Paradise. I’ve been doing that for five years now – we’re now in our sixth year. This year, there was a festival of open swim, from April 20 to April 27. We have workshops for swimmers and coaches, a short-course series for swims and hosted the Banana Boat swim kid series.
What have been some of your career highlights?
Getting to the heights I did with international competition as an athlete. With my coaching, I’ve tried a range of different types. I was Denis Cotterell’s assistant for three years – and this is a high-performance program, so you have to be a hard-ass coach. I found with kids it feels like you’ve got to be headmaster every day of the week, so I switched to adults. When an adult turns up to squad training, it’s because they want to be there. I found with adults you can go in-depth with your analysis and stroke correction. I’ve now been an adult swim coach since 1984. When I moved to the Coast in 1989, I was the Miami Masters Coach for 25 years. I’ve been the Queensland State Director of Coaching – teaching people to become coaches – and I also sat on the National Board for Masters Coaching to review training methods.
You were diagnosed with prostate cancer, how did that change the course of your life?
As far as my lifestyle was concerned, I was always very active – being a coach and competitive swimmer – you keep your hand in the water doing competitions, even if you don’t train as hard. With my levels of training, it became a lot to do with the diet choices and I decided I needed to go organic. I tried a lot of different products on the market that claimed to ‘change the world’ – but the product that really stood out for me was Super Sprout. The powders aren’t just good for you, but they are practically medicine. I found broccoli sprout powder really cleaned up my gut health, blueberry powder helped detox my blood and beetroot powder helped oxygenate my blood – and gives you a little more endurance when you’re completing those longer swims.
What advice do you have for men who might find themselves in the same position as you were?
The best piece of advice I can offer is don’t wait for problems to happen, have an annual blood check – even if you’re young. You should be looking at your blood because that’s the window to your whole health. With prostate cancer, you have a PSA score – that’s a score within your blood reading – so to get yourself checked out in the prostate region, all you need is a blood test. If I didn’t coincidentally stumble across my cancer, I would have been riddled with symptoms. The more you can get checked, the better!
What are you plans for the rest of 2019?
Well, I need to do a lot of recovery work in the middle of the year – another diagnosis has come across my plate, which isn’t too pleasant. I have a brain tumour – it’s not cancerous, but the growth can stuff me up. So right now – my main focus is keeping my body physically and mentally fit. That’s where my diet and lifestyle choices come into play. I need to look after myself inside and out.