By Ian Ransom
ADELAIDE (Reuters) - Libby Trickett's infamous attacks of nerves at the Olympics have included feeling like vomiting on the morning of her gold medal-winning swim in Beijing, but the 27-year-old now feels a liberating calm as she contemplates qualifying for a third Games at London.
Despite not setting the world on fire with her times since coming back in 2010, Trickett feels quietly confident on the eve of the 100 meters butterfly preliminaries where she will battle world silver medalist Alicia Coutts and former world champion Jessica Schipper for one of two Olympic berths.
"It's so rewarding the journey that I've been on. The fact that I am as lean as I was in 2008, I'm stronger than I was in 2008 I think I have the potential to be as fast as I was.
"That's pretty rewarding in itself coming from where I started. Obviously the next goal for me is to make the Olympic team."
Trickett needs to finish in the top two of the butterfly final to guarantee a spot for London, but has a better chance in the 100 freestyle, where a top six performance will at least ensure consideration for the relay team.
Trickett retired at the end of 2009 at the age of 24, citing fatigue with the grinding, individual sport, but was lured back to the pool nine months later.
Her comeback road has not always been smooth and she was crushed with disappointment after failing to make Australia's ultra-competitive team for the world championships in Shanghai.
The eight-times world champion was nonetheless buoyed by a solid swim last month at state championships, where she posted a time of 54.87 seconds in the 100 freestyle, almost a second better than her post-retirement best.
Yet to reach her peak form, Trickett said the break had nonetheless made her a better swimmer.
"I think if I had have kept swimming (after 2009), I would have had a real bitterness and I think I probably would have regretted that more," she said.
"I went through so many things personally, emotionally and mentally during that time off that I know that I'm better for it now and I think I'm a better athlete because of that."
Despite dominating her events for more than five years, Trickett has rarely exuded bullet-proof confidence, and opted for caution after colossal disappointments at her first Olympics at Athens in 2004.
At the Games, however, nerves got the better of her and she failed to make the final, which Henry won, though she was a member of the gold-medal winning 4x100 freestyle relay team.
Trickett has stopped short of calling the Australian trials her last stand, but said the call of motherhood was becoming hard to resist and might trump her desire to re-assert her rule over the pool.
"I would like to swim on until at least the end of this year, potentially do the World Cup tour and also the world short-course championships, that's my dream at the moment," said the 27-year-old.
"I can see myself still swimming because I'm really enjoying the sport, I'm very passionate.
"I have a real love of what I'm doing right now but at the same time I've got this biological clock that's ticking, so I would really like to start a family as well.
"Whether I can balance the two or have to decide one or the other way, I'm not sure what will happen."
(Editing by Greg Stutchbury)