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Missile & Golden Girl to race in Sydney

9 February 2012

Two superstars of Australian swimming take to the pool in Sydney this weekend for the NSW Titles. Olympic gold medal contender James Magnussen is set to fly and triple Olympic gold medallist Stephanie Rice is using the meet as her first hit-out since shoulder surgery in December.

With just on month to go until the Olympic Swimming Trials in Adelaide, the NSW Titles will be a good indicator of form. Eamon Sullivan, Geoff Huegill, Emily Seebohm, Libby Trickett, Michael Klim, Meagen Nay and Leisel Jones are among the other Olympians in action, with the swim team tweeting up a storm about the early 2012 hit-out.

“Seriously excited anyone!?” joked Libby Trickett.

“Off to Sydney for NSW Champs! First comp of 2012” said Meagen Nay, “Getting so close now!” said an excited Emily Seebohm.

With many big names in the field, an in-form Magnussen arguably headlines the meet.

Magnussen flew into the Olympic year with a 48.05 second finish at the South Australian Championships last month, leading dual Olympic 100m freestyle champion Pieter van den Hoogenband to back Magnussen to end Australia's 44-year drought in the event at the London Olympics.

"I really love the way he is swimming," van den Hoogenband said. 

"He is more natural, for me, I like the natural swimmer."

No Australian has won the blue riband 100m freestyle at the Olympics since Michael Wenden at the Mexico City Games in 1968.

But Magnussen has form in making history, having become the nation's first man to win the 100m freestyle world title in Shanghai last year.

In an exciting move for swimming fans, Magnussen will also race in the 200m freestyle at the NSW Titles.

Van den Hoogenband, who won the 100m at the 2000 and 2004 Olympics, encouraged Magnussen to take on the 200m even if the Australian's camp is wary of putting too much on his plate.

"He should go for it because his stroke is so natural," said the member of the Laureus academy.

"It is good for his second 50m."

The event also doubles as a comeback meet for injury-plagued Rice. Rice had arthroscopic surgery in December to repair a torn tendon in her right shoulder- a hiccup to her build-up towards Olympic trials.

But her coach Michael Bohl said on Wednesday Rice has experienced only minor pain during training in Brisbane this week.

Bohl said getting race practice at the NSW titles was too good an opportunity to pass up but stressed training was the priority for Rice in her recovery.

"She's got to get a really good last five weeks (of preparation) in so we're not going to go and swim in five or six races and come back and be no good for two weeks," Bohl said.

Rice is listed in her two gold medal events from Beijing- 200m and 400m Individual Medleys, 200m freestyle and 100m butterfly at the three-day meet at Sydney Olympic Park but Bohl said she was no certainty to take part in those events.

"She's not going to swim just for the sake of swimming," Bohl told AAP.

"If her shoulder's a little bit tight after the 400m medley, we'll just make a decision day-by-day. We'll just see how it goes."

AOC with AAP

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