St Peters Lutheran College, Queensland’s largest private school, is so vast you actually need to drive between some of its facilities. Before dawn, parents drop off children from Audis and Range Rovers to various stadiums, but the school’s hallowed domain is its heated outdoor 50-metre pool. Members of the Australian Olympic swim team are training here in the lead-up to London. There is Leisel Jones, pumping her legs on an exercise bike. Stephanie Rice is doing crunches, shadowed by a television crew from 60 Minutes. And here, jumping rope furiously, is Nick D’Arcy: Australia’s best butterfly swimmer, a serious gold medal prospect, and the most loathed athlete in the country if magazine and online polls – not to mention Australian Olympic Committee sanctions following last month’s media beat-up over Facebook photos – are any indication.
There are legitimate reasons to dislike D’Arcy. In March 2008, shortly after qualifying for the Beijing Olympics, he knocked out fellow qualifier Simon Cowley, a triple Commonwealth Games gold medallist, at a Sydney bar. Cowley’s injuries were gruesome. X-rays revealed breaks to his jaw, eye socket, cheekbone and nose, as if a metal pipe had been rammed into his face, rather than a human fist. Most of Cowley’s teeth came loose.
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