It's splitsville for Aussie swimmers Story HighlightsEdit
The record-holding swimmers say the split won't slow them in Beijing
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) -- Australia's swimming world record holders Eamon Sullivan and Stephanie Rice have ended their 2-year romantic relationship, their team coach said Wednesday, expressing hope that the split won't slow down them down at the Beijing Olympics.
The 22-year-old Sullivan, who set the 50-meter freestyle in March 2008, and 20-year-old Rice, world record holder in the 200- and 400-meter individual medley events, are in Kuala Lumpur with the swim team of Australia (also known as AUS) training for the 2008 Olympics.
"We are still great friends," Sullivan said, adding that the split won't affect his medal prospects at the Beijing swim competition starting Aug. 9, 2008.
Head swim coach Alan Thompson told reporters after a practice session that he had known about the breakup "for a while."
But he made it public after Australian media reported earlier Wednesday that Sullivan and Rice, Australia's glamor couple were no longer together. The Daily Telegraph newspaper reported that the first inkling of the split came when the status on both their Facebook pages appeared as: "no longer in a relationship."
The Australian Associated Press said the break up occurred 10 days ago.
"They are professional athletes. They handled it really well so I don't think it's an issue," Thompson said.
"Certainly it doesn't concern anyone else in the team, and it's not a nasty breakup. It was a mutual decision for the two kids ... it's not my business unless it does disrupt the team and it certainly hasn't done that," he said.
Thompson described the pair as "smart young kids" whose focus is on performing well in Beijing.
"They make their decisions according to that. I respect their decision ... they are just normal young kids. That's all they are," he said, adding that it was "normal for kids to have several relationships."
After their world record feats at the Australian national championships in March 2008, Rice had spoken of the difficulties in maintaining a long distance relationship with sprint specialist Sullivan.
"It's always been really hard," she said at the time. "Talking on the phone, you can interpret things the wrong way and that's really hard."
At the Australian championships, Sullivan clocked 21.28 seconds in the 50-meter, after lowering the mark to 21.41 in the semifinals, which also broke the world mark of 21.50 set by France (also known as FRA) athlete, Alain Bernard. time at the European championships in Eindhoven, Netherlands a week earlier.
Rice's first world record also was set at the Australian championships in the 400 individual medley, finishing in a time of 4:31.46 to improve on American Katie Hoff's mark of 4:32.89 set at the world championships in Melbourne last year.
Laurie Lawrence, the official motivator for Australia's Olympic team, said both swimmers are too professional to let the split affect them.
"They've been training for this moment for so long they'll have their mind right on the job. They won't be distracted by anything," he told Australia's Nine Network television.