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Rice qualifies for Olympics

2012-03-15 14:28
Stephanie Rice (File)

Adelaide - Stephanie Rice will defend her Olympic 400m individual medley title in London after setting the year's second-best time to win the event at the Australian selection trials in Adelaide on Thursday.

The triple Beijing Olympic gold medallist won in four minutes 33.45 seconds, more than four seconds ahead of Blair Evans (4:37.80), who is also off to the London Olympics in July.

Rice, 23, went into the national championships under pressure to earn a place in Australia's Olympic team after surgery on her right shoulder last December.

But the glamour girl of Australian swimming sent out an emphatic message that she will be competitive in London after swimming just 0.78 outside Briton Hannah Miley's 2012 best time of 4:32.67 set earlier this month.

"It's the biggest relief and the biggest weight lifted off my shoulders," Rice said.

"It's been the toughest preparation I've had to date and I had to get my head around that I couldn't do the training sessions that I was doing in the lead-up to the Beijing Olympics.

"That gives me a world-class time and puts me up in the world rankings again and if I can get a consistent three months of training I'm confident I will be competitive in London."

Rice said her sizzling time proved she was not a spent force.

"To put the time on the board was all I needed to do and to qualify and be pretty close to Hannah Miley's time which she did not long ago is a really good feeling for me," she said.

Four more spots in the Australian team were filled on the opening night of the trials with David McKeon (3:46.36) beating Ryan Napoleon (3:47.93) in the 400m freestyle.

Thomas Fraser-Holmes swam the year's best time of 4:11.81 to set an Australian record in winning the 400m individual medley to clinch Olympic selection along with runner-up Daniel Tranter (4:16.38).

Defending Olympic champion Libby Trickett was sixth fastest into the 100m butterfly final with 59.65 behind Jessicah Schipper (58.26).

Only 1.44 seconds separated the top seven with only two from Friday's final going on to compete in London.

Triple Olympic gold medallist Trickett retired at the end of 2009 but made a comeback to competition last year and missed out on qualifying for the Shanghai world championships.

"I was excited to go faster than this morning's heats and the confidence I am taking from both those races, and now it's just a matter of freshening up a bit more," Trickett said.

"It's going to be a fun race tomorrow, the girls are racing really quickly, I'm buzzing at the moment, I'm just so thrilled to be here and racing at this level again."


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