Five-time Olympic champion Ian Thorpe failed to qualify for the 200 meters at the London Games after finishing in 12th place at the Australian swimming trials.
Thorpe had a time of one minute, 49.91 seconds in the 200-meter freestyle semifinal in Adelaide. Ryan Napoleon won in a time of 1:47.51. Thorpe’s time in the semifinals was slower than in his heat, when he clocked in 1:49.16.
“The fairy tale has just turned into a nightmare,” Thorpe told Australian broadcaster Channel 10. “Looking at this I probably had a little bit of inexperience in racing these last 18 months.”
Thorpe, 29, is trying to secure a berth at his third Olympics and first in eight years. He returned to racing in November five years after retiring from the sport as the country’s most successful Olympic athlete.
Thorpe last raced at a major meet in January 2006 at the Australian Commonwealth Games trials, 17 months after winning two golds, one silver and one bronze in Athens to lift his Olympic medal tally to a national-record nine.
He’s next scheduled to race in the 100-meter freestyle at the weeklong trials. Australia’s policy is to pick the top two from each event, with a top-six finish in the 100-meter or 200-meter freestyle securing a place on the relay squad.
After announcing his comeback 13 months ago, Thorpe wasn’t eligible to compete again until November. He’d entered the trials seeded 19th in the 200-meter freestyle, an event in which he still holds the national record.
Thorpe rose to prominence at the 2000 Olympics in his hometown of Sydney, where he won three golds and two silvers. His victories in Athens took him past track athlete Betty Cuthbert and swimmers Dawn Fraser and Murray Rose as Australia’s top gold-medal winner.
He retired in November 2006 at the age of 24, saying he had lost the desire to compete. Since changing his mind, he has been working in Switzerland with Gennadi Touretski, the Russian coach who guided Alex Popov to the 50-meter and 100-meter freestyle gold medals at the 1992 and 1996 Olympics.