Australian swimming legend Stephanie Rice will be setting up her own academy in India with an aim to help the country’s swimmers win medals at the 2024 and 2028 Olympic Games.
Rice won three gold medals, all in world record time, at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
“I think it is because every coach in Australia has trained the likes who coached Michael Phelps or my coach Michael Bohl. They have had an opportunity to see what the best coaches in the world do and how they train their athletes and then they go and create their own programme,” Rice said.
“So, that is why I wanted to create my academy. I feel that I can bring my team of high-level coaches and we can have a big impact on the athletes here and bring all the Indian swimmers back to India and create the depth of whole swimming squad,” she told PTI in an interview on Tuesday.
Competing in the 2012 London Olympics after undergoing three shoulder surgeries, Rice finished fourth in 200m individual medley and a joint sixth in 400m medley. She announced her retirement in 2014.
India has swimming culture but lacks in infrastructure and professionally-managed coaching programmes, Rice said.
“I have been in India for three years and have been doing a number of swimming clinics. I had the opportunity to see a lot of swimming culture.”
“The most successful (swimmers from India) have gone to train in the USA, or Thailand, or Australia, because that’s where the great coaching programmes are and that is where I feel India lacks — in high performance coaches,” Rice said.
Swimming offers the best chance to win gold medals at the Olympics alongside athletics, she pointed out.
Rice, who won gold in 400m individual medley, 200 individual medley and 200m freestyle relay in the Beijing Games, said there is “talent” in India.
“There is talent everywhere and it has to be nurtured properly. I think there is definitely talent here (in India) and you have to nurture and train it properly,” the legend said, adding she has been keenly following the sport in India.
“I have always seen what is going on in Indian swimming and I am quite close actually with the top swimmers and understanding what they have been doing.
“I think there is a great potential right now (among the swimmers). I hope to coach some of the people who are doing well and also groom a lot of upcoming swimmers,” she added.
She was asked if she wished to see Indian swimmers on the Olympic podium.
“The 2024-2028 (Olympics) that’s the goal and (to see) ideally more than one person (on the podium). I would love to have Indian swimming relay team in the final and getting close to podium,” said Rice, who was recently inducted as the Athlete Member of the Sport Australian Hall of Fame.
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