Five-time Olympic champion Ian Thorpe said he’ll continue his swimming comeback after missing out on a London Games berth at the Australian selection trials.
Thorpe blew his last chance to secure a spot in the squad by failing to advance out of the 100-meter freestyle heats in Adelaide yesterday. The 29-year-old also failed to make the 200-meter freestyle final three days ago.
Thorpe had been bidding to compete in his third Olympics and first in eight years. He returned to racing in November, five years after retiring from swimming as Australia’s most successful Olympic athlete.
“I’ve missed out on what was a huge goal for me to accomplish in this short period of time, but still the desire I had before this, it’s still there,” Thorpe said in a news conference. “I still want to swim.”
Thorpe, who needed to finish in the top 16 to reach the 100-meter semifinals, posted the 21st fastest time of 50.35 seconds. World champion James Magnussen went quickest in 48.26 in the heats before topping last night’s semifinals with a season-best time of 47.93.
Australia’s policy is to pick the top two from each event at the trials, with a top-six finish in the 100-meter or 200-meter freestyle securing a place on the Olympic relay squad.
“Thorpie’s been someone I’ve always admired as a swimmer so it is upsetting for him and the rest of us do feel his pain,” said Magnussen, who is the bookmakers’ favorite to win the 100-meter freestyle Olympic gold this year. “It would have been great to have him there in London.”
Thorpe had 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.
After announcing his comeback 13 months ago, Thorpe wasn’t eligible to compete again until November. Even after missing out on the Olympics, he said that he’d still made the right decision to return after an extended period away from the sport.
“I don’t regret giving this a go,” Thorpe said. “Compared to how I’ve raced and how I’ve competed and the success I’ve had, this does look like doom, but I’m glad I was willing to put myself out there to give this a shot.”
Thorpe said he would take some time off before discussing his next targets with Leigh Nugent, the head coach of Australia’s swim team, and his coach Gennadi Touretski.
The 15th world championships take place in Barcelona next year before the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland.
“What he’s attempted was incredibly difficult and coming here and doing what he’s done is an achievement in itself,” Nugent told reporters. “He got to the point in his races where he committed himself but just couldn’t go on with it and that’s a training and condition factor. He’s got it all. You’ve just got to train it.”