Sydney:The coach of Australia's triple Olympic champion Stephanie Rice said on Friday he was confident the swimmer would recover from her post-Beijing slowdown and qualify for this year's world championships.
Rice was named the 2008 Australian swimmer of the year after her world record gold medal swims in the 200m and 400m individual medleys and in the 4x200m freestyle relay at Beijing last August.
But her coach, Michael Bohl, said Australian swimming's glamour girl has returned to the training pool "pretty unfit" after her nine-week break following the Beijing Games.
Rice, 20, has just over two months to be near peak shape to qualify for the world championships in Rome in July.
Bohl said the task won't be easy as his swimmer needs to place in the top two in her 200m and 400m medley events at the national selection titles in Sydney in March against rising stars, Emily Seebohm and Ellen Fullerton.
"She's had the longest break she's ever had," Bohl said.
"There was nine weeks where she wasn't doing too much at all.
"So she went from being quite a very fit person to being pretty unfit and she struggled, not motivation-wise, but getting back into a routine."
But Bohl said an impressive training week over Christmas was enough to suggest to him that she was hungry for Rome, which would be only her second major international meet.
"If she's concentrating on herself and keeps doing what she's done in the past she'll put herself in the best possible position to do well in March," he said.
"It's not going to be easy but she has to qualify herself in the Australian team for Rome and then she has another four months after that to get in shape equal to or better than when she won her medals in Beijing."