AFTER achieving the height of sporting glory, Annabelle Williams continues to live the Olympic dream as the in-house lawyer for the Australian Olympic Committee.
The 27-year-old's journey to the AOC started when she landed a graduate position at Allens in Sydney in 2013. After working in Mergers & Acquisitions and Intellectual Property, Williams came to the AOC on secondment and scored a contract.
Her role covers everything from team and anti-doping agreements to sponsorship and marketing.
"What I love about this role is there's a gamut of varied work I'm exposed to and I am fortunate to work across so many different areas of the organisation," says Williams.
"I'm very fortunate to be learning from the best in the industry, Fiona de Jong and John Coates, who are both lawyers and I report directly to.
"It's been a really steep learning curve and, at my age, is really a dream come true.
"People probably wouldn't realise I'm a one-woman show without a team of lawyers behind me."
Even before graduating, Williams had notched up a lifetime of achievements, including as a stunt double for Charlize Theron in Mad Max 4: Fury Road. Yet it is her sporting achievements for which she is best known.
Williams made her first Australian team in the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games, winning a bronze medal in the 50 metre freestyle during her final year of high school. She was also school Vice-Captain at the time.
This was followed by bronze at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics in the 100 metre butterfly, silver at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in the 50 metre freestyle in New Delhi, and gold at the 2012 London Paralympics in the 4x100 metre medley relay.
In 2007, Williams was awarded the Bond University Sportsperson of the Year and named a finalist for the Australian Universities Sportsperson of the Year.
"I always had a dream to go into law. My great uncle was a judge and used to tell amazing stories about the people he met and things he had done and I just knew that law was something I wanted to do too."
Like many academic athletes, Williams learned to compartmentalise her life at a young age.
"When I was younger I loved so many sports, but I realised as I got older that I had to specialise in my favourite, swimming, because I just didn't have time to do all of them," she says.
"I think Year 12 in particular instilled in me skills that helped me combine both my passions for sports and law.
"I was balancing a lot. I learnt that when I was swimming, I had to focus 100 per cent on that and not ever let anything else like assignments or school council meetings cross my mind, otherwise I'd end up doing everything half hearted.
"I had to learn to maximise even the smallest window of time. I remember that I used to have 20 minutes between the end of school and the start of training and always had to try and squeeze something in that time.
"Quentin Bryce said something that has always resonated with me: 'You can do it all, just not all at the same time'. I've tried to approach things like that."
Williams says that type of routine doesn't really come naturally for anyone and, in moments of doubt, she was lucky to have a support network that encouraged her to keep up the momentum.
"I don't know if I could have continued for 10 years on the Paralympic team without the incredible support from my family and friends, or having the opportunity to take much-needed breaks," she says.
While Williams' resume has a lot of high points, she says that the period straight after a major competition is very anticlimactic, so she quickly learnt to fill those times with various things so she had something to look forward to.
"That anticlimactic feeling is very common among athletes. The enormous highs you get from winning medals is very hard to replicate in everyday life.
"Coming back from the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games was difficult, going from such a massive high to final exams in Year 12.
"From then, I made sure I always had something to look forward to at the end of a major competition so I wouldn't feel that way again and again. Bond University was great for that and completely understands its athletes.
"After the Beijing Paralympics, I went on an internship, organised through Bond, to Paris where I worked with Austrade, and after the London Paralympics I did an exchange with Perennial Strategy Group in Washington DC."
Williams clearly thrives under pressure in a team dynamic, a trait that came to the fore in the lead-up to winning gold at London.
"We were such unlikely winners in that relay and such outsiders to even win a silver or bronze," she says.
"We won by 0.03 of a second there were four teams on the wall in less than 0.2 of a second, so it was very hard to tell whether we won or came fourth.
"I had about 30 friends and family in the crowd and could see them from where I was standing as we were waiting for the verdict, which was such a special and unlikely coincidence in a huge stadium of 11,000 people.
"People often ask whether I would keep swimming to win an individual gold medal - and I know that's often the goal - but winning as part of a team and to share the happiness of that gold medal with three friends, I think, is even more special."
Watch Williams and her team win gold at the London 2012 Paralympics:
Help us deliver quality journalism to you.
As a free and independent news site providing daily updates
during a period of unprecedented challenges for businesses everywhere
we call on your support