Sydney: Australia`s Beijing 2008 triple gold medallist Stephanie Rice insists she is just happy to be able to compete at this summer`s Olympics.
She said that she would be going into the London Games with an "open mind" after a difficult period trying to overcome injury.
Rice - who won her medals four years ago in the 200 metres and 400m individual medley and 4x200m freestyle relay - has been struggling with a shoulder problem and claims she should not be viewed as a favourite for further gold in London.
The 24-year-old is frustrated her condition is not entirely as she would like, but she is keen to emphasise how satisfied she is simply to have made it to this point and will be taking the Games as it comes.
"I`m going in open-minded because I`ve never had a preparation like this," Rice said.
"I`ve definitely put 100% into it - whether or not it is good enough to get me what I achieved in Beijing I`m not sure, but I don`t really want to think about winning and trying to do that right now.
"It is all about the journey really, and what I`ve already achieved in swimming I`m so grateful for. If I can add on to that, I`d be really stoked, but if I don`t, then oh well.
"At least I can walk away saying I couldn`t have done anything more, and that was really all that I wanted to do when it came to these Games.
"For me, it was a goal in itself just to get to these Games and I just want to do the best that I can."
With her track record, Rice admits she cannot be regarded as an underdog, but she is determined to play down her chances of success.
"It has helped with my confidence to know that I have already achieved something great in such a high-pressure situation - to know that I don`t have to do anything that I haven`t already done," Rice said.
"But at the same time, achieving that was really hard and it took a lot of work to get there.
"Everything was smooth sailing and kept going up in my 2008 preparation, whereas this year it has been ups and downs.
"If I walk away just making a final, and that is it, I`m just so proud of how I have dealt with getting to this point and if there are no gold medals, it doesn`t matter, because this has been such a character-building experience and I will take that through life.
"I don`t think you can ever put someone like myself in an underdog position after what I achieved in Beijing, but I don`t think of myself as number one going in, so I definitely don`t see myself as being the hot favourite."
Someone Rice does rate as a key contender in London is Great Britain`s Hannah Miley, who she is set to face in both the 200m and 400m individual medley events.
"Hannah is swimming really well and she is definitely someone I have been looking at for quite some time now," Rice said.
"Her and (United States swimmer) Elizabeth Beisel are definitely going to be the hot two contenders in the 400m."
Rice was speaking in Manchester, where the Australian swimming team have been training as part of their preparations for London 2012.
The United States basketball squad have also been in town for an Olympics warm-up match with their GB counterparts at the MEN Arena, and Rice was delighted to cross paths on Thursday with NBA star Kobe Bryant - who it seems was as eager for an autograph as she was.
"It was awesome that he came out to the pool yesterday [Thursday] because everyone was so excited," Rice said.
"Kobe came in and everyone did like the best session they have ever done!
"It was really cool and his daughters said they were fans of me, so they wanted a signed swim cap.
"He gave me his signed shoes, so I`m pretty happy with the trade-off!"
BDST: 1750 HRS, July 21, 2012
Chanchal Ghosh, Newsroom Editor
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