Vastavam web: Triple Olympic champion Stephanie Rice is confident she can help India get its first Olympic medal from swimming after announcing plans to set up her academy in the country early next year. The Australian swimmer won three gold medals at the Beijing Games in 2008 – each in world record times – and will be inducted next month as an Athlete Member of The Sport Australia Hall of Fame, one of the highest honours in Australian sport.
A swimmer making the cut for the Olympics is a cause of celebration in India given the abysmal record of its athletes in the pool at the highest stage of competition but Rice believes there was enough talent in the country of 1.3 billion.
“Lot of the current Indian swimmers train in the Thailand or the U.S. and they come back to compete for the country. “It makes it really hard for India to become a really good sporting nation because you require every athlete to have funds to be able to train somewhere else in the world.” Over the next few days, the 31-year-old Rice will be meeting sponsors and partners and finalise a location for the Stephanie Rice Swimming Academy, which will be operational from next year.
Indian swimmers have not qualified for next year’s Tokyo Games yet and the country lacks infrastructure and professionally-managed coaching programmes to produce top-level athletes. “I am bringing with me my team of coaches – strength and conditioning, physios, nutritionists – to be able to help the current swimming athletes but also hopefully generate some up and coming athletes over the years,” she said.