Stephanie Rice’s troublesome shoulder faces its biggest test on the opening day of swimming trials in Adelaide and coach Michael Bohl admits the Olympic champion faces a fight just to make it to London.
The women’s 400m individual medley headlines the opening day of the national championships on Thursday with Rice hoping to overcome a troubled preparation and earn a shot at defending the title she won in Beijing.
Rice is still feeling pain since undergoing arthroscopic surgery in December to repair a torn tendon in her right shoulder and said last month she would have stopped swimming had it not been an Olympic year.
Rice will need to finish top two in the final, and Bohl said she would have to shave around seven seconds off her time of four minutes and 42.29 seconds in finishing second at the NSW titles last month.
With increased competition from Blair Evans, Sam Hamill and Ellen Fullerton, it means Rice will likely have to reproduce close to her form from last year’s world titles in Shanghai, where she claimed bronze in 4:34.23.
That will be no mean feat given Rice’s injury worries, but Bohl is quietly confident the 23-year-old will be able to produce when it counts.
“She’s a great competitor as we all know and she knows what has to be done here,” Bohl said.
“If she doesn’t get in the top two she’s not in the team. She knows what’s as stake.
“You’ve got four girls there that are going to be pushing each other pretty hard there in the final … it’s going to take a sub-4:35 on paper to get herself through to the Olympics.”
Bohl revealed Rice was still icing her shoulder after each swim.
“It’s a precautionary thing. She wasn’t complaining about it during training (on Wednesday morning), so hopefully all is going to be good,” Bohl said.
While Rice is usually one of the faces of these meets she is yet to front the media, thought to be a result of her not signing a team agreement with Swimming Australia.
Reports have suggested Rice was not happy with the financial offer put forward by SA.
Bohl said Rice was in a good mental state and while qualification was the top priority, she was a fierce competitor who would be trying to make a statement.
“She’s in there to win it, she wont be holding anything back, but there’s no guarantees with where you come,” Bohl said.
“Hopefully she can do enough to get herself in top two. If she doesn’t she’s got the 200 medley a few days after that.”
Thomas Fraser-Holmes is favourite to take out the men’s 400IM event, while Ryan Napoleon, Rob Hurley and teenager David McKeon among the leading contenders for the 400m freestyle, the other event to be decided on Thursday.