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Aussie swimmers in for a tough time
Giaan Rooney
14:00 AEST Wed Jul 25 2012
Which Aussie swimmers are you most looking forward to seeing at the London 2012 Olympic Games?

Giaan Rooney One of Australia's Olympic golden girls, Rooney will return to the pool to cover all the aquatic action from the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Giaan Rooney

I now have far more respect for swimming and the athletes involved at the highest level than I ever did when I was competing. Not that I didn't respect my competitors at the time, but I have a much bigger and better understanding of the whole picture now that I look at it from the outside.

I take my hat off to anyone who is making a comeback to swimming, it's something I could never do. I never knew how good life could be until I retired and to catch a glimpse of life without the constant training and pre-dawn routines and still go back is just incredible.

There are two kinds of comeback, the athletes who think they didn't quite achieve what they should have and those like Ian Thorpe and Michael Phelps who conquered the world and still wonder if they have it in themselves for another shot at glory.

I don't know if anyone realised how close Michael Phelps came to walking away from the sport completely and how unmotivated he was in the two years following his incredible gold harvest in Beijing. He turned things around, put in an enormous effort and is back to his best form and only trying to win seven gold medals this time, rather than eight. The fact that Phelps is here means he's here to compete – he hates losing. He wants to go out on a high but will have to beat his own teammate Ryan Lochte who is proving to be an incredible swimmer himself.

Like everyone else I'm not too sure how well this Australian swimming team will perform. We have a great team with a real mix of experience and a lot of youth. A lot of the team are at their second Olympics and from my experience it is much nicer to have one under your belt so you know what to expect. It is going to be really tough for Australia in the pool with the USA being their usual enormous threat and the Great Britain team swimming very well at the moment as well.

James Magnussen in the 100m freestyle is our stand-out gold medal hope. The best thing about the men's 100m freestyle is that Magnussen's biggest threat comes from teammate James Roberts. I think an Aussie one-two finish in that final is a very realistic goal. Because of their strengths and throwing in Eamon Sullivan and Matt Targett, we have a very strong men's 4x100m freestyle relay team. They are rightly gold medal favourites, with three of them recording top ten times this year.

Stephanie Rice is the defending Olympic champion in the women's 200m individual medley and has swum the best time this year. She has had her injury concerns and is probably not in the form she was in during the lead up to Beijing. She has some stiff competition, but she is a warrior competitor who lifts for the big events. Rice might join the women's 4x200m freestyle relay team and they will have a very good chance of bringing home gold with Kylie Palmer and Bronte Barrett both swimming well.

There could be some surprises from out of the Australian team. I always say it's not necessarily the fastest athletes that win at the Olympics, it's the ones who cope best with the incredible pressure and the enormity of the occasion. I'm really looking forward to the women's 50m freestyle and seeing how the Campbell sisters perform. Having each other on the team gives Kate and Bronte a level of support and normality that could prove to be an enormous advantage. I'll be interested to see whether they can spur each other on to greatness.

There are some young guys as well, like Thomas Fraser-Holmes in the 400m IM going up against Phelps and Lochte. Thomas, in his very first Olympics, will be swimming against probably two of the greatest swimmers of our time. If a swimmer can deal with the expectation and pressure anything can happen, I'd never write them off.

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