Swimming: Thorpe adds fourth world record to tally

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IAN THORPE continued his remarkable run of form at the Pan Pacific Championships in Sydney yesterday, helping to set a fourth world record inside four days.

The 16-year-old Australian with the size 17 feet led the hosts to victory in the 4x200m freestyle relay in a record time of 7 minutes 8.79 seconds, taking the number of world records set in the opening four days of the championships to seven.

"I go to bed at night and thank God that we have got him," Australia's swimming coach, Don Talbot, said. "He could be the greatest swimmer the world has ever seen."

Although attention centred on Thorpe, the teenager was quick to praise the efforts of his team-mates, William Kirby, Grant Hackett and Michael Klim, saying: "We got the result as a team."

Thorpe's career has been littered with personal achievements. In 1997 he became, at 14, the youngest male to swim for Australia when selected for the Pan Pacific Championships, and the following year he became the youngest ever world champion, after winning the 400m freestyle in Perth. He won four gold medals in the Commonwealth Games of that year and, since then, has gone on to break record after record.

Thorpe suffered his first setback of the championships yesterday, after he failed to qualify for the final of the 100m freestyle.

Canada's head coach Dave Johnson has also been caught up in the Thorpe phenomenon. He said the teenager had transformed the 400m freestyle from a middle-distance tactical race to an eight-lap sprint.

"We haven't seen the best of him yet," Johnson warned. "There's just no limit to his potential."