The comeback has been completed and it could put Libby Trickett among the greats.
The veteran Australian is a chance to retire from the sport with a fourth Games gold medal, equalling the record haul of Dawn Fraser, after playing her part in the Dolphins’ women’s 4x100m freestyle relay success at the London 2012 aquatic centre.
Trickett, at her third games and waist-deep in a return to the pool following a premature retirement three years ago, swam the final leg of the Australians’ race, touching the wall at 3min 36.34 to send her team to the top of the event qualification board.
However the Australian band, which also featured Emily Seebohm, Brittany Elmslie and Yolane Kukla, were only 0.19sec ahead of Team USA.
But the Dolphins will bring in Mel Schlanger and Cate Campbell, ranked six and seven in the even this season, for tonight’s final.
Trickett was the second fastest in the Australian team (54.08sec) and it might be enough to earn another swim.
Regardless, Trickett was still share in whatever success the Dolphins generate tonight.
A gold medal will put Trickett on the same level as Fraser, who won four gold medals between the 1956 and 1964 Games.
Only Ian Thorpe (five) has enjoyed more Olympic success.
Trickett, 27, won gold in the 4 x 100m freestyle in Athens and added the 100m butterfly and 4 x 100m medley crowns in Beijing.
There was more joy for Australia earlier in the morning session on day one with Christian Sprenger blitzing the men’s 100m breaststroke heats.
Sprenger came to London to swim an Olympic final.
He will have to reassess his goals this afternoon because the Australian has firmed as a medal prospect at the London with his 59.62sec swim.
Sprenger will swim the semifinal tonight.
Fellow Australian Brenton Rickard, the world record holder in the event, also qualified for the semifinals - but only just.
Rickard, who posted 1min. 00.07sec - a second and a half slower than his personal best, was 14th on the qualification chart.