Stephanie Rice of Australia looks on during a training session ahead of the London Olympic Games
Stephanie Rice of Australia looks on during a training session ahead of the London Olympic Games Adam Pretty - Getty Images

Rice hopes to repeat Beijing

QUEENSLANDER Stephanie Rice has a lot to live up to in London following her magnificent performance in Beijing where she won three gold medals and set three new world records.

She won't have long to wait to make her first title defence. Rice's bid to retain her 400m individual medley crown will start and finish in today's opening day of competition - it's one of the first medals to be decided.

The 24-year-old won't start favourite and that's not surprising after her far from ideal preparation.

A long term shoulder injury, something which requires treatment after every swim, has hampered her training. If that wasn't enough, Rice, who also won the 200IM and was part of the a 4x200m freestyle relay team four years ago, injured her neck in training in London.

But she wasn't about to use that as an excuse as she prepared to take on race favourite, American Elizabeth Beisel.

"I pulled my suit off and just kinked it (the neck) a little. It's fine, it wouldn't be a high pressure preparation without something going a bit not to plan , but I feel like I'm really capable of handling things like that at the moment," Rice said.

While she could represent Australia's best shot at glory on the first night of finals, the women's 4x100m freestyle relay team is also considered an outside chance at gold.

Cate Campbell, Melanie Schlanger and Alicia Coutts will attempt to chase down hot favourites the Netherlands, while comeback swimmer Libby Trickett will be out to impress in the morning heats to clinch the fourth place in the final.

American superstars Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte will have their first showdown in the men's 400IM final.

Thomas Fraser-Holmes will fly the flag for Australia in that event.

Ryan Napoleon and David McKeon will contest the men's 400m freestyle, while Coutts will begin her campaign in the 100m butterfly heats and semis, with Brenton Rickard and Christian Sprenger beginning their campaign in the 100m breaststroke.

IN THE SWIM

Swimming heats start at 7pm tonight (AEST).

The women's 400m IM final is scheduled to start at 5.09am tomorrow.



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