Sat June 30, 2012 10:23pm
STEPHANIE Rice isn't one of those tracksuited athletes you have to drag kicking and screaming into a nice dress and a bit of lipstick.
During our photoshoot, the swimmer thumbs the racks of designer clothes, excitedly asking the stylist when she sees something she likes, "Can I try this one on, too?"
Posing in a blue bodysuit and a silk, floral knee-length skirt, with a gold metal belt and arm cuff, Rice bears a passing resemblance to Gisele Bundchen; something about the shape of her face and nose, along with her olive skin, evokes the supermodel. But, at the suggestion, she laughs it off with a "No way!", purses her lips and jokes, "Gisele must get that a lot."
After Rice has removed the make-up and changed back into her own tight, pink-patterned mini, black T-shirt and thongs, we sit down to chat and she giggles, "I love Victoria's Secret, and I know my models and fashion, so to be compared to Gisele is amazing."
The 24-year-old is enjoying a rare break from her gruelling training schedule, which has ramped up in the lead-up to the London Olympics. Does she ever get used to the early starts? "Uh, uh," she says, shaking her head. "Never. It's the hardest part about it."
After the initial high the Olympic champion experienced following her standout performance in Beijing in 2008 - she won three gold medals, in the 200m and 400m individual medleys and the 4 x 200m freestyle relay, all in world-record time - it hasn't exactly been a smooth run to London.
Rice has been plagued by a shoulder injury that saw her miss the 2010 Commonwealth Games and troubled her right up until her selection in the Australian Olympic team earlier this year (she had surgery a few months earlier). "My shoulder especially hurts on breaststroke, so I've had to modify my stroke a bit," she says. "I don't think it's affected my times. If anything, it's given me more specific training in breaststroke, so it's probably helped."