Swimming: 'Thorpedo' ready for one last plunge in the pool


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The Independent Online

In his prime, between 1999-2004, he was the fastest swimmer on the planet over 400 metres, and it was a major disappointment when Australia's Ian Thorpe failed to qualify for London 2012.

But the five-time Olympic champion – he won three golds at Sydney 2000 and two in Athens 2004 – is determined to bring down the curtain on his competitive career with a flourish.

The "Thorpedo", who turned 30 last year, says he ran out of time as he fought to regain his best form in both the 100 and 200 metres in time for the London Olympics and dropped his trademark event last year, but insists, "I still have a life in the pool."

Thorpe, who had returned to competitive swimming in 2006, feels one last plunge into the pool is within his grasp. "It would be nice to allow myself to come full circle in my swimming career. I simply didn't have enough time [before London] to prepare the way I wanted to and I had to compromise.

"Now I can do exactly the training that I need to do with time on my side and I can get a preparation that will enable me to swim really well. Having success again would be what that younger athlete I once was would tell me to do."

Thorpe, the winner of nine Olympic medals overall, has targeted the Australian trials, starting on 26 April, before the World Championships in Barcelona in July. He is also optimistic that with a solid preparation under his belt he could be selected for Australia's 2014 Commonwealth Games squad in Glasgow.

"I wish my return went the other way and I qualified for London but I found for myself the reason I love swimming," he explained. "Everything is on a two-year plan for me these days. What I didn't like about London was that I was rushing to make it. I'm not going to do that this time."

Thorpe has overcome a well-publicised battle with alcohol abuse and depression, which he had kept hidden from his family and friends. He addressed his sleepless nights of torment in a 2012 autobiography but still finds it painful to discuss the mental anguish that climaxed during his peak years in the pool.

"It's a difficult subject for me," he said. "When you get to a point when you rationalise the process of suicide, you can't sleep at all at night and feel it's actually a viable option, that's when you know you need more help. I hit rock bottom, then found another layer below that."

Thorpe accepts there is no cure to his crippling depression but is relieved to have finally banished the suicidal thoughts. "Even today, at a time when I'm pretty happy with my life, I have to manage what is quite a severe illness," he said. "It's a day-by-day proposition."