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Rice Back On The Boil For Olympic Defence

Mar 15, 2012  - Craig Lord

Australian Olympic Trials, Adelaide, Day 1 finals and semis:

The most successful Australian of the 2008 Games in Beijing became the first to make the cut for London 2012: Stephanie Rice set up the defence of her Olympic 400m medley crown at the EnergyAustralia Swimming Championships and trials in Adelaide today, her 4:33.45 victory marking the fastest textile-suit time of her career.

Blair Evans was the second swimmer to qualify for action this summer, while David McKeon, 19, and Ryan Napoleon claimed tickets to Britain in the 400m freestyle and 20-year-olds Thomas Fraser-Holmes and Daniel Tranter raced inside the cut in the 400m medley, Fraser-Holmes shattering the national record with a 4:11.81 victory that tops the early 2012 world rankings.

Race Reports

Women's 400m medley

Stephanie Rice took a solid stroke towards defending her Olympic crown with a dominant 4:33.45 victory over Blair Evans in the 400m medley. Evans claimed the second berth for the Dolphins squad of 2012 in 4:37.80, with bronze going to Samantha Hamill in 4:42.69.

Evans had clocked a 4:36.21 while warming up for trials last month but when the pressure was on today the Olympic champion coached by Michael Bohl stepped up to the mark and clocked the fastest time oif her career in a textile suit, inside a 4:34.23 effort at the world championships in Shanghai last year.

Rice's effort ranks second best in the world so far this year behind world-championship silver medallist and European and Commonwealth champion Hannah Miley, on 4:32.67 at British trials in London the weekend before last.

Rice told reporters in the mixed zone in Adelaide: "I'm so excited. It's a dream come true. It's been one of the toughest preparations I've ever had and I'm so glad to have qualified. The past month I've put in a really good block of work and I'm really happy to swim one of my fastest times."

Rice, keeping in mind shoulder surgery and rehabilitation in the past year, took it easy with a 4:45 in heats, Bohl explaining to Wayne Smith at The Australian: “There’s no point killing yourself in a heat at these sorts of meets. Obviously when you get to the Olympic level you can’t afford to muck around in the heats but at this stage of her preparation… her shoulder has been good but we don’t want to take any unnecessary risks." The shoulder in question has been operated on twice now- and Rice puts ice on it between races to help it all hold up as she extends herself for the first time at full rate since the world titles last summer.

"It’s been a really tough mental preparation as well, just to get my head around surgeries and inconsistent training and to come away now with a world class time, it puts me up there in the world class rankings again and I’m really excited,” said Rice through Swimming Australia. 

The splits:

  • Rice   1:02.51; 2:12.79; 3:30.98; 4:33.45
  • Evans: 1:03.30; 2:14.41; 3:35.80; 4:37.80 
  • [Miley: 1:03.10, 2:12.46, 3:29.23; 4:32.67]

Four years ago, on March 22, Rice set the first of eight world records in as many days at Australian trials as polyurethane put the kettle on in the race pool on a journey to shiny suit chaos. Her 4:31.46 victory over 400m medley set the standard for the world on the way to Rice's 4:29.45 world-record triumph at Beijing 2008 on the first day of action at the Olympic Games.

Rice also took down both the 200m medley mark at 2008 trials, the other global standards set that week going to Eamon Sullivan in the 50m free, twice, Libby Trickett in the 50m and 100m free and Emily Seebohm and Sophie Edington in the non-Olympic 50m backstroke.

Olympic Season Takes Shape - 2012 top 5 (two per nation):

  • Hannah Miley (GBR) 4:32.67
  • Stephanie Rice (AUS) 4:33.45
  • Katinka Hosszu (HUN) 4:36.06
  • Blair Evans (AUS) 4:36.21
  • Mireia Belmonte (ESP) 4:37.36

The best ever in textile is the 4:31.78 in which American Elizabeth Beisel claimed the world crown last year.

Men's 400m freestyle 

David Mckeon had watched his sister Emma just miss the cut for the 100m butterfly final but the son and pupil of former Olympic swimmer Ron kept his focus on the way to writing his own Olympic chapter at the age of 19.

After shadowing Ryan Napolean, 21, for 300m, McKeon marched past Napoleon with a 28.69 (to 29.56) split, turned and bolted to a 3:46.36 victory and Olympic qualification. A family tradition is alive and kicking: McKeon's mum is former Aussie swimmer Susie Woodhouse and uncle Rob won bronze in the 400m medley at the 1984 Olympic and is now agent to British double Olympic champ Rebecca Adlington, among others.

"I'm overwhelmed. Dad's been there, my uncle's been there, so I'm following on this family tradition. It's great," McKeon told reporters.

Napoleon took the second berth in 3:47.93, holding off a fast finish from Robert Hurley, locked out in 3:48.60. Up in the stands, the 2000 and 2004 Olympic champion Ian Thorpe may have watched the race with a thought for the 3:40.08 at which he held the world record first time round. On the comeback trail to try for a relay berth in 2012, Thorpe will race the 100m and 200m at trials over the coming eight days.

Olympic Season Takes Shape - 2012 top 5 (two per nation):

  • Sun Yang (CHN) 3:42.89
  • Li Yunqi (CHN) 3:45.49
  • Park Tae Hwan (KOR) 3:45.57
  • David McKeon (AUS) 3:46.36
  • Robert Renwick (GBR) 3:46.73

Ian Thorpe's 3:40.08 remains the best ever in textile, the world record 0.01sec faster set by Paul Biedermann (GER) in 2009 before the ban on non-textile booster suits.

Men's 400m medley

Thomas Fraser-Holmes claimed the helm of the early 2012 world rankings with a 4:11.81 victory that shredded the Australian record and wiped 5sec off his personal best.

The national mark had stood to Justin Norris at 4:15.20 since Athens 2004 but Australia's long wait to catch up with the drive below 4:10 led by Phelps, Cseh and Lochte is nigh. Fraser-Holmes, 20 and coached by Denis Cotterell at Miami on the Gold Coast, arrived at the meet with a best time of 4:16.75, fifth best ever by an Australian. Now, he's out alone, the rest still struggling with that pace.

"I wanted to go 4:12 tonight, but to go 4:11 was a bonus. I wasn’t feeling that great in the heats, but I guess that was a blowout,” said Fraser-Holmes through Swimming Australia.  

Also 20, Daniel Tranter clocked 4:16.38 for silver and a debut Olympic selection alongside Fraser-Holmes. Bronze went to Mitch Larkin, 18, on 4:18.38, with Travis Nederpelt, 26, well down on best in 4th on 4:21.01.

The splits:

  • Fraser-Holmes: 57.59; 2:01.50; 3:13.30; 4:11.81
  • Tranter:             57.50; 2:03.83; 3:14.95; 4:16.38

Olympic Season Takes Shape - 2012 top 5 (two per nation):

  • Thomas Fraser-Holmes (AUS) 4:11.81
  • Roberto Pavoni       (GBR) 4:12.43 
  • Daiya Seto           (JPN) 4:13.78
  • Joseph Roebuck       (GBR) 4:14.48 
  • David Verraszto      (HUN) 4:14.58

Chad Le Clos (RSA), world cup champion, is just outside that group of early leaders, while the sub-4:10 club is yet to take to its blocks rested to race this year.


In the women's 100m butterfly, the Olympic champion survived to fight another day: comeback trailer Libby Trickett clocked 59.67 in the second semi to scrape into the final in 6th place. The field is led by Jessica Schipper and Alicia Coutts, respectively on 58.26 and 58.30 at the helm of the same semi in which Trickett raced into fourth 0.02sec behind Yolane Kukla. The first semi sent to Brittany Elmsie in 59.01. Last through to the final were Marieke Guehrer, 59.70, and 16-year-old Bria Throssell, on 1:00.09.

Veteran achievers Brenton Rickard and Christian Sprenger won their respective 100m breaststroke semis in 1:00.36 and 1:00.56.