London Spy

British medal hopes: Rebecca Adlington (swimming)

London Spy

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Adlington receiving 800m free gold on podium in Beijing

Rebecca Adlington was Britain's golden girl of the Beijing Olympics. In winning the 400 metres and 800m freestyle events — the latter in a world record-breaking time — she became the first British swimmer to claim an Olympic double in the pool for 100 years.

Her success made her a household name. Adlington, far from a one-dimensional athlete, has a number of interests outside the pool and her likeable persona engaged the public following her triumph in Beijing. As proof of her new-found popularity, she came third in the 2008 BBC Sports Personality of the Year poll.

However, under the spotlight of fame and weighed down by public expectation, Adlington's performances in the pool suffered in 2009, when at the World Championships in Rome she only finished third in the 400m freestyle and fourth in the 800m.

She found her form again in superb fashion the following year by winning the 400m freestyle at the European Championships in Budapest and then completed the 400m and 800m freestyle double at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi.

She continued her return to the top of the sport by earning World Championship redemption in Shanghai in 2011, claiming silver in the 400m freestyle and gold in the 800m, becoming Britain's first freestyle swimming world champion in the process.

Whether home soil is as kind to Adlington as China was remains to be seen, but the prospect of facing her when she is back to her best is likely to strike fear into her medal rivals.

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Five Rebecca Adlington facts:

Her coach Bill Furniss is the same one that discovered her at the age of 12

She was awarded an OBE in the New Years Honours of 2009

She was originally an individual medley swimmer

Glandular fever saw her miss out on both the 2005 World Championships and 2006 Commonwealth Games

She is an ambassador for the Encephalitis Society

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