Triple Olympic champion Libby Trickett said her legs felt like lead as she took her first tentative and torturous steps back to international competition in the Summer Swim series at North Sydney Pool.
The 26-year-old Queenslander recorded a time of just over one minute, two seconds in a 100m freestyle race at the historic pool, around 10 seconds outside her personal best.
Trickett completed the same event in just under a minute on Saturday night, as she contested her first competitive races since 2009.
She said she had no idea how long it would take her to reach full physical and race fitness, though sprinter Ashley Callus, who also came out of retirement, warned her it would take a while.
“The way I’m swimming right now is how it is and you just have to take it as it comes and keep on moving forward which I know I am,” Trickett said.
“It’s a good opportunity to race and the fact that I get to race here is good. I can see where I’m at and I can see what I can improve on.
“Just to be part of that team environment again is something that is really positive.
“I’ve put a great block of work together for the last three weeks and that’s probably why I’m struggling so much now, my legs feel like they’ve turned to lead and that’s a result of the training I’ve been doing.
“I can’t wait to race when I’m fit and fresh and tapered.”
Trickett will contest three Mare Nostrum events in Europe before returning to Australia and trying to win a relay spot on Australia’s world championship team.
She will need to swim faster than the fifth placed 100m freestyle swimmer at April’s national championships and world championship trials in Sydney, which she can’t contest as she won’t have finished her nine-month waiting period after registering to return to top flight competition.
Another triple Olympic gold medallist, Stephanie Rice, who returned to competition last month following shoulder surgery, was happier with her form on the second day of the North Sydney meet.
“I’m happy with that because I thought it would be the other way round, just because I’m a bit more tired and sore,” Rice told reporters.
She will contest the NSW titles in February in her final hitout before the world championship trials.
“I’ve gone a lot further than I thought I would have at this point in time,” Rice said.
Emily Seebohm and Ashley Delaney were other strong performers at the North Sydney event where the majority of Australia’s top swimmers were split into four teams.