Aussie swim star Sprenger motivated by thoughts of Rio
THE winner's dais at the Rio Olympics in 2016 is never far from Christian Sprenger's mind.
It is what motivates the champion breaststroker to hit the training pool on those cold winter mornings when you and I are snuggling deeper into our warm doonas.
It is what keeps him focused through the pain of niggling muscles, and when the spirit wanes it is the distant samba beat that fuels the soul.
Sprenger will be 31 when the Australian team touches down at Galeao International, which is probably not the most favourable age for a swimmer, but he is already putting himself in the best position possible to make a potential impact at those Games.
"For me Rio is a very realistic goal," he said.
"Of course we have to see how things go but to make a third Olympics is an incredible achievement and I will do everything possible to get there. If my training stays on track and my body feels good there is no reason I shouldn't be in the frame."
First though, Sprenger will have to contend with the challenge of the World Championships which start in Barcelona on July 19.
A blistering performance at the nationals in April has given him a ticket into the 50m and 100m events, and it is an opportunity he wants to grasp with both hands.
Of course Sprenger, an individual silver medallist in the 100m breaststroke in London last year, is no stranger to performing on the big stage.
He made a splash when he first burst on the scene with a gold medal at the Melbourne Commonwealth Games in 2006, and has since added three Olympic medals, three World Championship victories and three more Commonwealth Games gongs to an impressive haul.
There was, as there often is, more than the odd disappointment along the way and it is the experience gained during these trials, Sprenger says, more than the wins themselves, that have moulded him into a better, stronger, faster swimmer.
"Lots of things have contributed to making me a better athlete," he said.
"But experience is certainly high on that list. When I first started I was young and a bit foolish. I race differently now, my attitude towards performance has changed and it's about finding a new approach, about doing the little things well."
Sprenger, who has already clocked four of the leading times in the world for the 100m this year - the fastest a red-hot 59.05sec - is no doubt eyeing off the world record 58.46sec belonging to arch rival South African Clinton van der Burgh to whom he lost the Olympic final in controversial fashion.
"I'm pretty confident that I can go sub-58 at some point," he said.
"To be honest, 59 seconds doesn't cut it anymore, but at the same time I try not to get too involved with the end result.
"The nationals was a good opportunity to see where I was at and now I have a few more weeks to regain my fitness and focus on my preparation.
"I am learning all the time and at this stage it is about working the percentages to try and shave off 0.2 or 0.3 seconds. I have a lot of room to move in terms of technique and for me that's a good thing."