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Always ready to make a splash

Date

Clare Low

The backstroke swimmer placed eighth in the 200-metre event in Beijing. Being at the Olympics blew her away. She was floored when she met tennis great Roger Federer in the dining hall.

She says being a twentysomething and an Olympic athlete means social life must be sacrificed. She's she's too tired to do much on a Saturday night other than go to bed.

"I don't look at these things as regrets, she says. "Last year, I went to three different countries, so that outweighs being able to party."

The chlorine ravages her skin and hair, so she swears by Palmer's Cocoa Butter twice a day. Bainbridge likes Miranda Kerr's KORA Organics range, Foster and Coutts swear by Clinique.

Bainbridge, aged 22, won a gold medal at Beijing with her killer freestyle. When her hair is a blonde bubble and her gown a Roberto Cavalli, she looks like a Palm Beach socialite. "I feel like a cougar," she jokes, nodding at the animal print.

She makes the Olympic village (after her events), sound like a chilled-out place to be. She likes the shopping, the hair and nail salons and, as was the case in Beijing, the fact her swimming idol Michael Phelps happened to be around.

"I was like, 'Oh my God, I am in the same environment as him.' "

Coutts' memories of Beijing include breakfasting with Cadel Evans.

"I said, 'You're famous'. And he was like, 'No, you're famous.' It was strange. I was like, 'I am not famous, you are truly famous. Nobody knows who I am.' "

That could all change. Gold medal hopes are pinned on Coutts in particular, the 24-year-old who came fifth in Beijing.

She describes the dining hall as a place of all type of food, including the wrong kinds: the fast food restaurant in the corner, the free soft drinks and the unlimited chocolate bars, which she saw athletes from poorer nations cart away in piles.

Coutts and the other swimmers can't eat this way. While their tough workouts would undoubtedly burn any excess fat, they still opt for a lot of vegies, salad and fruit, and avoid high-sugar foods. They eat a high-carbohydrate and high-protein diet to keep their energy levels up.

London's not far off and Coutts admits she finding training difficult. She's looking forward to eight weeks' break afterwards. In the meantime, she is enjoying her tousled hairdo: done with hot irons, pin curls and smoothed with fingers. She and the other swimmers adore getting glammed up. Coutts loves with shoes and Oroton handbags.

Foster, too, enthuses about being pampered for her shoot in Relax.

"Oh hell yes. I was so excited about getting my make-up done. Oh, it's so cool. We never do this. There are usually shots of us moving in the water or on the pool deck in our bathers."

The 27-year-old swims breaststroke and came ninth in Beijing. She is hopeful of her chances.

"Shiny gold would be really good."

Foster, who has swimming pool eyes – huge, blue and deep – looks like a flapper girl with her hair straighted and slicked down. She comes from a swimming family: Foster's grandparents are coaches and her mother swam, too. Sally was 14 when she decided to swim seriously.

Asked if the life of a professional swimmer is exciting, she can't contain her sarcasm.

"Everybody should get up at 5.30 in the morning and come training for two and a half hours in a swimming pool and smell like chlorine all day and be tired all the time," she says.

This belies how much she loves her sport.

"I know what I want to achieve, so it's easy to get out of bed."

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