Luo is ready for gold
For Luo Xuejuan, the hunt is just about to start.
The 21-year-old triple world title holder has been keeping a low profile, although her main gold contenders have shown their strength with world-record-breaking shows in warm-ups to the Olympics.
Luo simply cannot wait.
"The feeling (of competition) is coming to me," said the talented swimmer from Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, after her training in the Olympic pool. "I am totally alive when I swim in that pool."
Luo has been on poor form this year. Despite winning a berth to Athens in the national trials in May, her winning time was way short of her personal best.
"I feel comfortable here and I feel I am ready for competition."
Luo, who likes to describes herself as "a beast ready to dart" every time she steps onto the starting blocks, said the encounter with her main rivals always excites her.
"It's good to see them, you know, it means my gold hunting will start soon," she said.
In the next lane, Australia's Leisel Jones, the current women's 100m breaststroke world record holder, was training. Jones was beaten by a gallant Luo to second place in the 100m breaststroke in the 2003 Barcelona World Championships despite breaking the world record in the semi-finals. Later, American Amanda Beard, the 200m breaststroke world record holder, came to the pool with the US team.
"This is the best day since I came here," said Luo who landed. "I couldn't feel better and the meet with other competitors just reminds me of the old days."
Luo, who anchored the Chinese squad to win three gold medals in the Barcelona tournament, is the top gold hopeful for the Chinese side.
But Jones and Beard will be her biggest obstacles en route to the gold medal and Luo needs to duplicate her form in Barcelona for a triumph in Athens.
"I hope Luo can win the gold in a world record time," said her coach Zhang Yadong during training in Beijing.
But her rivals remain cautious.
"It's a talented pool and I just know there will be the strongest eight girls in the final," said Jones at a press conference on Tuesday.
"I have to give my best to get in there and so does everyone."
As well as the individual competition, Luo could lift a gold for China in the 400m medley relay event, in which they upset the United States and Australia to win in Barcelona.