Sydney: Libby Trickett`s quest to compete at a third Olympic Games received a major boost on Friday when the Australian swam her fastest time since coming out of retirement, a performance that made her feel less like a "fraud".
The three-times Olympic and eight-times world champion retired in late 2009 before returning to competition last June but has been struggling to post competitive times since.
In the heats of the 100 metres freestyle at the New South Wales championships on Friday, however, she posted a time of 54.87 seconds, almost a second better than her previous post-retirement best.
Tanned and now brunette rather than blonde as she was when she competed at the Athens and Beijing Games, Trickett`s huge smile betrayed excitement, and a little shock, at recording the time a month before Australia`s Olympic trials.
"It was quite bizarre really, I really didn`t expect that time," the 27-year-old told reporters. "Almost 12 months ago I was going 1.02 in the summer series. Compared to that it`s awesome.
"The fact that I`ve put together a sub-55 swim, that`s competitive," she added, barely pausing for breath. "And for me, I just feel like less of a fraud.
"I feel like I am actually mixing it with these top girls in Australia now and I`m not just like: `Hey, I used to be really fast at swimming, I`m going to try it again and see how I go but not really swim very fast`.
"I feel like people might believe that I actually might make the Olympic team again and hopefully might be interested to see how that`s progressing."
Trickett recently reunited with Stephan Widmer, the coach who guided her to individual gold in the 100m butterfly and silver in the freestyle at the Beijing Games.
She also won a medley relay gold in 2008 and, under her maiden name of Lenton, a sprint relay gold in Athens.
Overshadowed to some extent by the comeback of her compatriot and five-times Olympic champion Ian Thorpe, Trickett said she was enjoying her attempt to get to the London Olympics.
"Just every step along this process, whether they be challenges or what people would consider to be setbacks, it`s really fun to try and overcome everything," she said. "It`s really quite rewarding."