Australian swimming golden girl Stephanie Rice has spoken out to deny claims in the Sydney Morning Herald that “the Olympic athletes’ village is a hotbed of sexual energy”.
Rice, who recently broke her own ban to speak to the media at the Olympic selection trials in Adelaide, said she didn’t understand where the claims came from.
“I have no idea, that all seems really funny to me,” she said of the claims. “There is a lot of stress and energy and excitement and adrenalin, so I can understand what they are talking about in terms of emotion.”
Rice was quick to downplay her Olympic prospects following recent success at the Australian Swimming Championships in Adelaide, despite still recovering from shoulder surgery three months ago.
She said the realisation of being at one of the world’s biggest sporting events can cause some athletes to rise to the occasion while others struggle under pressure and expectation. “What you’ve done at this meet doesn’t really have any reflection on how you will go in four months time.”
In a tribute to her dedication to swimming for the Australian team, Rice joked about the aftermath of not being able to overcome her emotions to make the Olympic team this year. “I guess if I didn’t make the team this week, I wouldn’t know what to do with my life.”
She extended congratulations to Libby Trickett and Nick D’Arcy for overcoming some of their own tribulations to qualify for London, especially highlighting the comradery and support for each other as something that defines the Australian swim team.
“At the end of the day, we’re all here to support and represent our country, and it’s always been that way since I’ve been in the Australian swim team.”
However it was Nick D’Arcy, who was kicked off the 2008 Olympic team for Beijing after assaulting team mate Simon Cowley, who drew the highest praise from Rice. In an emotional victory, the 24-year old took out the 200m butterfly to book his trip to London.
“I’m really stoked for him to finally have been able to go to an Olympics because it would have been really tough for him because of the way he was kicked off the team last time,” said world record holder Rice. “He’s an amazing competitor and I think he’s really going to be one to watch out for at the international level.”
Recently retired Michael Klim, who could only manage 14th place in the butterfly field, said “it’d be nice” if D’Arcy would apologise to Cowley for causing significant damage to his face after punching him at a Sydney nightclub in 2008.
D’Arcy has made clear that he isn’t interested in discussing the feud, acknowledging he is more focused on “staying on the right path” rather than revisiting his troubled journey. “I don’t find a lot of positives from hanging onto the past,” said a determined D’Arcy.
The 23-year-old Rice also admitted she has overcome the sometimes overwhelming divided opinion of the public, insisting it is simply a part of being in the public light. “I know people have a different opinion of me and that’s something I have learnt, as I have matured, is out of my control,” said Rice, who was heavily criticised for tweeting an offensive slur in response to a rugby match in 2010. “You can’t worry about what other people say, it’s about being true to yourself.”
The Australian Olympic team has reportedly been placed under social media restrictions to prevent any unnecessary distractions during the Games. “We haven’t really been fully briefed on everything yet, but I definitely know there is going to be some sort of crackdown on social media,” Rice said.