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13 Aug 2008
Beijing 2008

Rice hits golden hat-trick in 4x200m relay

Stephanie Rice

Usain Bolt was not the only young athlete who came home from Beijing with three gold medals and three world records - step forward inspired Australian swimmer Stephanie Rice.

Rice crashed on to the global scene at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne when as a relatively unknown 18-year-old she won two golds in her specialist events, the 200m and 400m individual medley (IM).

Her star was clearly in the ascendancy but she suffered the double misfortune of competing in an era of two all-time great versatility swimmers; American Katie Hoff and Kirsty Coventry of Zimbabwe.

Rice and Hoff spent the year leading into the Olympic Games in Beijing taking it in turns to set new marks in the 200 and 400 IM events, but American’s most recent record in the US trials ahead of competition in China marked her out as the favourite.

But Rice got the better of both Hoff and Coventry in the individual events with two gold medals and world records to match.

Hoff’s confidence badly knocked, the Americans aimed for consolation in the 4x200m freestyle relay, an event they had won at every Games since its introduction at Atlanta in 1996.

All the main contenders qualified for the final with Australia, the United States and China expected to be vying for the major medals.

Rice was joined by Bronte Barratt, Kylie Palmer and Linda Mackenzie but it was clear from the flying start made by the United States that they were keen to hold on to their distance relay crown.

However the Australians soon worked their way into contention and at the halfway mark they had edged ahead of China in the lead.

As Rice brought the quartet home, it was evident for the crowd watching in the iconic Water Cube that a special race was being played out.

Australia’s winning time of seven minutes 44.31 secs was an eye-watering six seconds faster than the previous world record and although second-placed China and the US in third were yards in arrears they also would have beaten the previous world record mark.

Australia’s formidable swimming team had its new star.
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