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Rice weighs return to swimming after injury, sabbatical

April 27, 2013
 Olympic star Stephanie Rice, at the national swimming championships in Adelaide as a Swimming Australia ambassador, is mulling her own future in the pool. Picture: Simon Cross Source: News Limited

Olympic star Stephanie Rice, at the national swimming championships in Adelaide as a Swimming Australia ambassador, is mulling her own future in the pool. Picture: Simon Cross Source: News Limited

Triple Olympic champion Stephanie Rice has given herself a deadline of November to be back in training if she is to contend for a place in the Commonwealth Games team next year.

But she said if she returned, it would be as a sprinter, rather than a middle-distance swimmer.

“I would never come back and do a 400m medley, that’s gone for me,” she said. “If I was to come back I would put more effort into the sprint events, the 100m butterfly and 100m freestyle. That would be something new and exciting for me.”

Rice, 24, has kept fit with gymwork and cross-training since London, admitting she had had just four swims since the Games, but said she missed the routine and the environment of an elite training group.

She acknowledged that after a year out of the water, she may struggle to come back to the level of athlete she was before her extended break. And any comeback will rest on the state of the troublesome shoulder that ruined her London Olympic campaign and required surgery when she returned last year.
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“I have done four swims since the Olympics, but I’ve done a lot of gym and tested my shoulder out and it feels a lot stronger but that’s something I won’t know until I start doing those 60km weeks,” she said.

“I need to have a decision made by December-January but I would need a few months of training before that because I am fit now but I’m not swimming fit.”

During her sabbatical Rice has moved to Sydney and spent her time working in breakfast television with the Today Show, filming The Celebrity Apprentice and designing a line of children’s swimwear.

She said she would weigh up all her interests before deciding if swimming still trumped her current pursuits.

“There’s a lot of pros and cons and I need to make a decision about which one I love more – it’s never been about the money for me,” she said.

If she does return to the pool, she said she would also go back to Brisbane to rejoin her old training group and coach Michael Bohl, who has just been announced as the Australian women’s head coach for the world championships in Barcelona in July.

“I would have to go wherever Bohly goes, he’s not just a coach, he’s a mentor,” Rice said.

She is attending this week’s national trials in Adelaide as a Swimming Australia ambassador and said all the old competitive urges had re-emerged.

“It’s so hard to come and watch and not be involved,” she said. “There’s always a part of me that wants to be involved. I definitely miss it.”

“But I want to make a clear decision about swimming,” Rice added. “After the Olympics there was so much stress (she underwent shoulder surgery for the third time), I needed to step away and focus on something a bit more positive.”

One thing she hasn’t missed has been the furore that surrounded the team after the behavioural issues and infighting that afflicted the London campaign emerged following the Games.

“It’s been nice not to be involved in all the negative media around it,” she said.

“In terms of the team (in London) it definitely wasn’t that really energetic uplifting environment that we probably needed but I think we are all aware of that.

“(But this week) is a great opportunity for us to put in those positive performances and go from there.”

One aspect of her swimming life which has followed her to Sydney has been the early-morning or late-night knock on the door from the drug-testers. Until she officially retires Rice remains on the testing list and she said her most recent call for a urine sample came at 10pm.

She revealed that she had had a nap for an hour, leaving the drug-testers sitting on her couch, until she was able to give a sample at 1am.


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