Stephanie Rice and Kobe Bryant 'just friends'

04:21, Aug 10 2012
Stephanie Rice
JUST FRIENDS: Australia swimmer Stephanie Rice leaves the men's basketball quaterfinal game between the United States and Australia.

It was the "are they, or aren't they" Olympic friendship that put Twitter in a spin, and it was the social media tool that set the record straight. Swimmer Stephanie Rice took to Twitter this morning to put the kybosh on a romantic flirtation between her and US basketballer Kobe Bryant.

She tweeted: "FYI yes Kobe and I are friends, but no we are not together and never have been. Can't guys and girls be just friends..? He's an amazing athlete and I've enjoyed getting to know him and many other great athletes in my Olympic journey."

Rice and Bryant's recent encounters made headlines both here and overseas, with some wondering whether there was more than just a friendship developing between the two. Bryant is in London with his wife of 10 years Vanessa and their two daughters, but the couple has been dealing with some well-publicised marital issues. Vanessa filed for divorce in December, but it was never finalised. They have since been spotted kissing, and out and about as a family at the Olympics.

Enter Stephanie Rice - a swimmer one of Bryant's daughters apparently idolises - social media, two Olympic athletes and a whole load of speculation. It started with a catch-up in Manchester while both athletes were preparing for the Games. Then they sat together at the velodrome this week, and tongues started wagging. Then two of Rice's current and former teammates stepped in to share their views.

Basketballer Elizabeth Cambage took to Twitter to criticise the "groupies" hanging around Bryant, given his wife was in London. "Get a grip" was her message to these women. After this made headlines, and Cambage copped a bit of flack on Twitter, she attempted to clarify - or perhaps back pedal - tweeting that she "never named anyone".

Then yesterday ex-Olympian Craig Stevens recounted a tale from Beijing - four years ago - using it as a peg to confirm his suspicions of a dalliance. "I think there's definitely something going on," he told radio station Triple M.

The tweet from Stephanie Rice this morning has put an end to all that. Sometimes male and female friends are just that.

-Sydney Morning Herald