Stephanie Rice: ‘No reason why India can't do well in swimming’

Australian swimming great Stephanie Rice opines that Indian swimmers can make a mark in the international arena but the authorities have to be 'serious.'

Stephanie Rice is currently in India as part of the commentary team of the Pro Kabaddi League 2018.   -  Biswaranjan Rout

Stephanie Rice turned heads at the Mayfair Convention Center over the weekend. Many recognised the dark-haired, tall stunner from her television appearances as an anchor for ProKabaddi League.

Ten years ago, the Australian swimmer had stunned the world when she won three gold medals, with World-record timing at the Beijing Olympics. But shortly after she struggled at the London Olympics in 2012 with shoulder injuries, she retired at the age of 24.

Now she is enjoying her life after sports. Besides doing television, she conducts swimming clinics; she has done quite a few of them in India and is keen to help the country make a splash at the global arena.

“There is no reason why India can't do well in swimming,” Rice, who was one of the speakers at the Ekamra Sports Literary Festival organised by the Government of Odisha and Emerging Sports, told Sportstar. “I feel India could take a leaf out of South Korea's book on swimming.”

Looking back at her career, she said she didn't imagine that she would do that well in the 2008 Olympics. “All those three golds were special and nothing less than a dream-coming-true,” she said. “But I couldn't have dreamt that I would end up with three World records. And it felt great, though Olympics is more about medals than timing.”

She said each of those medals was special. “The first gold (in 400m individual medley) was also Australia's first at Beijing,” she said. “And yes, it felt great that I could break the 4:30 barrier. The second gold (200m individual) was special because I was sick, with a running nose, and third because I could share it my team-mates as it was in the relay (4x200m freestyle).”

She said she had begun thinking about the Olympics from the age of 13. “When I broke in to Australia's top 10, I felt swimming could be my career,” she said. “I had begun swimming when I was very young; I loved to be in the water always, at the pool in our home in Brisbane.”

She said the decision to quit, in 2012, was not easy. “It was tough emotionally,” she said. “But I didn't see myself swimming for another four years (till the Rio Olympics). It took me three or four years to discover what I enjoyed doing.”

What India should do

Rice feels there is a lot of potential in India. “I have come across some promising swimmers through the clinics I have conducted here,” she said. “They have good technique, but needed to be trained by coaches who have trained high profile swimmers.”

She said India should try to emulate South Korea. “They used to send 10 or 12 of their swimmers to train with us in Australia and then our coaches would go to Korea,” she said. “That is the way to start for India.”

She said the Indian administrators have to be serious, first. “I have visited India for seven times and I have been asked by the authorities here eight times to help them, but nothing has happened so far,” she said. “India should think of a four-year programme. The Tokyo Olympics should not be the goal; it is just a year and a half away.”