Kazan: World champion Cate Campbell admits she faces a battle royal to keep her 100m freestyle crown at the world swimming championships.
The 23-year-old Australian won the world title in Barcelona two years ago and, along with Netherlands` Femke Heemskerk, has swum the joint fastest time in the year of 52.69sec, despite having shoulder surgery last year.
Campbell has several rivals in Kazan in the shape of Sweden`s Sarah Sjostrom, Holland`s Olympic champion Ranomi Kromowidjojo and her sister Bronte Campbell, who have all got close to her time in 2015.
"We always have lot of tough battles from the Europeans and you can`t underestimate anyone at a world championships, especially one year from an Olympic Games," said Cate Campbell.
"Everyone wants to stake a claim at the worlds.
"Injuries aren`t anything foreign to me, I am used to overcoming illness and injury, you can`t complain about it.
"When you`re standing up there on the blocks, it doesn`t really matter, it`s all about the next minute."
The Australian knows the perils of bad luck at a major championships and was unable to swim in the 2012 Olympic 100m freestyle heats after suffering from gastroenteritis in London.
Having won the 2013 worlds final in 52.34 seconds, Campbell says she expects fast times in Kazan as her rivals attack Britta Steffen`s world record of 52.07sec set at the 2009 championships in Rome, when neoprene suits were still allowed.
"The girls` 100m freestyle has gone from strength to strength," said Campbell who will race in the 4x100m relays on Sunday with the 100m freestyle final on Friday, August 7.
"It`s almost scarey how quick everyone is swimming.
"A couple of years ago, maybe one person had swum under 53 seconds and now you have to dip under that just to make a podium."
Campbell says she has benefited from Australia`s head coach Jacco Verhaeren, who took charge last year, and the Dutchman has helped her improve her technique, giving her an advantage over her Dutch rivals.
"It`s been really great having Jacco on board, we have been doing a lot of work on my starts and turns, which have let me down in the past, so I am looking forward to giving Ranomi a taste of her own medicine," she said.
Campbell says her status as defending champion will count for nothing once the 100m freestyle heats start next Thursday.
"Everyone is always looking over their shoulders, nothing is guaranteed," said the tall Queenslander.
"I read a statistic that in horse racing, the favourite only wins 12 percent of their races.
"I`m not comparing myself to a horse or saying I`m the favourite -- although my sister would say I can nag an awful lot -- but nothing is guaranteed in sport," she quipped.
"Anyone can step up and take what you perceive to be your place in the final.
"Take nothing for granted: people always come out, especially a year from Rio (the 2016 Olympics), so I`ll expect the unexpected."