Sydney: Triple Olympic champion Stephanie Rice would have ditched this season out of sheer frustration at her shoulder injury were it not for the London Games, the Australian said after her first race of the year on Friday.
The 23-year-old, who won the 200 and 400 metres individual medleys as well as the 4x200m relay gold in world record times in Beijing four years ago, competed on Friday for the first time since surgery on a torn tendon in her shoulder last December.
While satisfied with her time of four minutes 49.93 seconds to finish second in her 400 medley heat at the New South Wales championships, Rice could not disguise her frustration at how her Olympic preparations had been disrupted.
"I think if this wasn`t an Olympic year, I would have pulled out of the year because it`s been the most frustrating journey," she said.
"It`s been so frustrating, especially in an Olympic year, the most exciting year, and I`m just trying to do everything I can to get myself on the team."
"Hopefully everything I`m doing now is making my character stronger," she added with a laugh.
Dogged by injury since her stunning Beijing performance, Rice has not won an major international title in the intervening four years, although she does retain the 400 medley world record (4.29.45).
Rice`s tendon has not been fully repaired and she has been reduced to trying to manage the injury and doing what she can to keep fit outside the pool through gym work, running and cycling.
"They can`t repair a tendon, it`s a six month rehab," she said. "I obviously didn`t have time for that, so they just went in and cleaned it up as best they could.
"I don`t know if that was the best option right now, to have surgery, because it didn`t really do anything so I had a cortisone a few weeks ago and that seems to have settled it down a bit and I`ve been able to get through a decent amount of training.
"Hopefully, it will hold together for the next few weeks until the Olympic trial."
Australia`s Olympic trials take place in Adelaide from 15-22 March and although Rice was back in the water on Friday, the injury meant even her participation in other events at the meet at Sydney`s Olympic Pool was by no means certain.
"The whole process at the moment is trying to swim and train when it`s not so sore because when it`s sore, I have to back off," she said.
"The last thing I want to do having got this far is to make it worse. I`ve had to learn to judge what is a good sore and what is a bad sore.
"It`s been sore every session, it`s never like I get in and it`s awesome, but some days it`s less sore and that`s good."
Rice admitted to "nerves and anxiety" before her return to racing and also some resignation that she would be unable to prepare for London in the same way she did for Beijing in 2008.
"I can`t judge what I did four years ago to what I`m doing now, I`m a completely different athlete," she said. "I have to learn to compensate where I can.
"I`m past the point of being worried, it`s just a case of if it`s there, it`s there, if it`s not, it`s not."