Triple Olympic gold medallist and five-time world record holder Stephanie Rice OAM was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame this weekend in Fort Lauderdale, Florida USA.
Initiated as a member of the Class of 2019, the Brisbane native joins an elite group of swimming royalty. Rice now sits among fellow Hall of Famers, Ian Thorpe, Murry Rose, Shane Gould, Petria Thomas and Jodie Henry, all of whom have three Olympic gold medals to their name from a single Games – a feat only six Aussie swimmers have ever accomplished.
The dual Olympian debuted on the senior Australian Dolphins team in 2006, having already gained selection to represent the nation at the Junior Pan Pacs in 2002 under the guidance of Vince Raleigh and Matt Brown.
Coach Michael Bohl then began guiding Rice, in what would become a long-standing partnership, successfully coaching her at her first international meet as a Dolphin. Bursting onto the international stage at the 2006 Commonwealth Games, Rice bagged gold medals in the 200m and 400m individual medley (IM), spurring her on to become even more determined to drop her times.
The 2007 World Championships, which was hosted in Melbourne, saw Rice claim bronze in the 200m IM in a time of 2:11.42, knocking a full second off the Australian record. At the Japanese Open later that year, clocking in a personal best of 4:37.18, Rice set a new Australian and Commonwealth record in the 400IM.
Backing up stellar performances in 2008 saw Rice compete at the Australian Swimming Championships in Sydney – a meet that served as the selection event for the 2008 Australian Olympic team. In the same pool that hosted the 2000 Sydney Olympics, she clocked a time of 2:08.92 in the 200m IM and 4:31.46 for the 400m IM to set new world records in both events, qualifying her for her first Olympic team.
The 2008 Beijing Olympics cemented Rice as a household name, locking in three gold medals and breaking three world records. Powering home to set a new world record in the 400m IM, all of the hard work Bohl and Rice had done came to fruition as she touched first in a time of 4:29.45 – becoming the first woman to ever break 4:30 in the event, securing not only her first Olympic gold, but Australia’s first gold of the games and the nations 400thsummer Olympic medal.
Setting additional world records in the 200m IM in 2:08.45, and the 4x200m freestyle relay in 7:44.31, Rice was also awarded the honour of being named ‘Female Swimmer of the Meet’ alongside USA swimmer Michel Phelps.
Following a successful Olympic campaign Rice was awarded the ‘Order of Australia Medal’ the following year, where she would secure a bronze at the world championships in Rome for the 400m IM.
Rice continued to compete and achieve great things in the sport, overcoming injury and adversity to make several more senior Australian teams before announcing retirement in 2014 at the age of 24.
Since leaving the world of competitive swimming, Rice has continued to work towards improving the world of swimming. In partnership with her former coach Bohl, Rice has developed learn-to-swim programs in India through the ‘Stephanie Rice Elite Academy’, with the mission of producing India’s first Olympic swimming medallist.