Olympic champion Rice to miss Commonwealth Games

Triple Olympic gold medallist Stephanie Rice needs shoulder surgery and will miss the Commonwealth Games in October.

Triple Olympic gold medallist Stephanie Rice needs shoulder surgery and will miss the Commonwealth Games in October.

Rice said Thursday at the Pan Pacific swimming championships in Irvine, Calif., that she was dropping off the Australian team to deal with the right shoulder injury that has bothered her for months.

"It's a huge disappointment for me," she said. "I would've loved to have been there, especially because it only comes around every four years. But I have to think of the big picture, which is London 2012."

Rice became emotional while discussing her decision with an Australian television crew, turning away and tearing up before walking away for a few minutes.

"I only made the decision yesterday, so it's very fresh to me," she said.

Rice swam a personal best in the 50-metre butterfly preliminaries on Wednesday at Pan Pacs, but won't swim again at the year's biggest international meet. By competing here, though, she had earned a spot on the team for the Commonwealth Games to be held in Delhi, India.

"The real test was to see how it would pull up after a hard race and it pulled up really sore," she said. "I don't want to prolong surgery and if I can give myself more time for rehab that is the best decision."

Rice said the joints in her shoulder are inflamed and it needs to be cleaned out. She plans to have surgery in a couple weeks in Melbourne, Australia. Her rehabilitation is projected to be 12 weeks, including four weeks out of the water.

"I haven't really dealt with injury before," she said. "Some days I can deal with it and others I can't."

The 22-year-old swimmer swept the individual medleys and helped Australia win the 800 freestyle relay at the Beijing Olympics. She won a silver and a bronze at last year's world championships in Rome.

Rice won two golds in the 2006 Commonwealth Games.

Leigh Nugent, head coach of the Australian team at Pan Pacs, said Rice was expected to swim possibly three individual events and the 800 free relay at the Commonwealth Games. But her spots will be filled by others already on the team.

"She's the spearhead of the women's team if not the whole team," he said. "It's disappointing. It's probably taking a step backward to take a step forward in the future. It's definitely the right decision to make."