Swimming: Thorpe disqualification 'tragedy' for Australia

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The Independent Online

The Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, yesterday expressed his sorrow that Ian Thorpe would be unable to defend his only solo Olympic crown at the Athens Games, but the swimmer himself was taking a more positive approach.

Thorpe was disqualified from his favourite event, the 400 metres freestyle, at the Australian Olympic trials on Saturday after tumbling into the water before the starter's gun fired. The 21-year-old Olympic, Commonwealth and world champion has dominated the event since 1998, breaking the world record five times, but the disqualification means he will not defend the title he won in Sydney four years ago.

"I respect the independence of the swimming association and the Olympic body and I'll bet they're trying to find, you know, an honourable way of handling what is atrocious bad luck and a real tragedy for the country," Howard said.

Thorpe, who also failed to reach today's 200m freestyle final, added: "It has been tough and I really have to thank everyone who has supported me through this. The swimmers have all been very supportive."

Barring illness, the only way Thorpe can now secure a place in the event at the Olympics is if his clubmate Craig Stevens stands down.