Melbourne: Stephanie Rice is battling injury and has suffered four largely frustrating years since she lit up the Olympic pool in Beijing but it would be a brave call to write off her chances of adding to her golden haul at the London Games.

The 24-year-old, who won two individual and one relay gold all in world record times at Beijing's Water Cube four years ago, was laden with similarly low expectations before Australia's national swimming trials in March.

The Brisbane-born swimmer came into the Adelaide meeting nursing the nagging shoulder injury and dealing with a rare crisis of confidence about her ability to defend her Olympic 200 and 400 individual medley (IM) titles in London. 

Within four days of competition, however, Rice had booked both berths in London, obliterating competitive fields in each event to head to the Games with a big shot of confidence.

Rice's 200 IM time of 2.09.33 in Adelaide remains the benchmark this year but she has work to do in the 400 IM to make up ground on American world champion Elizabeth Beisel, who posted a scintillating 4:31.74 at the U.S. Olympic trials.

Like the shoulder injury that continues to plague her, Rice, who is nearly two seconds behind Beisel with the year's fifth fastest time, is taking the challenge in her stride.

"There's definitely a big jump needed but I'm in the firing range where it really comes down to who is prepared to race," Rice told Brisbane newspaper the Courier Mail.

"I'm not worried about rising to the occasion. I love the extra excitement of the Olympics.

"I'll be going to London to get absolutely the most out of myself. If that's good enough, great. If it's not, it's not."

Rice's 200 IM swim for the national title set her best time since she posted 2.07.03 in a now-banned suit at the Rome world championships in 2009. 

"The girl's got a heart as big as Texas," said Australia's head coach Leigh Nugent. "And again, (she) loves winning. She thrives on the big occasion." 

Rice hit the headlines as a 19-year-old when she set world records at the 2008 national trials in the lead up to Beijing, and her relationship with fellow swimmer Eamon Sullivan ensured she was a fixture in gossip magazines.

She broke up with Australian Sullivan shortly before Beijing, but her triple Olympic triumph, which also included gold in 4x200 freestyle relay, cemented her status as Australia's "golden girl" and saw her carry the country's flag at the closing ceremony.

Exercise In Frustration

While colourful, the four years in the pool between the Games have largely been an exercise in frustration for Rice, who was beaten for 200IM gold at the 2009 world championships by American Ariana Kukors. 

Her troublesome shoulder ruled her out of the Commonwealth Games in 2010 and her halo slipped a little after she posted a homophobic slur on Twitter directed at South Africa's rugby team following a loss to Australia. 

The resulting uproar cost her an endorsement deal with a luxury car manufacturer and led her to make a tearful public apology. 

On the comeback trail from injury at last year's world championships, Rice had to settle for bronze in the 400IM behind American Elizabeth Beisel and Briton Miley, and finished out of the medals in the 200IM. 

She needed cortisone injections to settle her shoulder injury before the trials and will have to grit her teeth and bear the pain right through to London, her coach Michael Bohl said. 

She has said she was unlikely to put herself through the preparations for a third Olympics after London and recently signed a deal with with a prominent entertainment agent in Australia with an eye on her career outside the pool.

Before that, she plans to go out with a bang at London, where she feels she could get close to her world-beating best provided her injury demons remain manageable. 

"I think people have written me off the past few years and it's nice to be able to just finally let the swimming do the talking," she said.


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