Swimming: Thorpe has the world at his feet

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The Independent Online
TOMORROW THE "Thorpedo" launches his second attack on a world record, writes James Parrack.

The latest boy wonder of world swimming is the 15-year-old Australian, Ian Thorpe. In January, aged 14, he became the youngest ever world champion - and has since become a phenomenon. He is 6ft 4in and weighs 14 stone, but it is what he stands on that makes him unique. He has size 16 feet.

Cyrano De Bergerac's nose drew the eye and, in the same way, it is hard to avert the gaze from Thorpe's feet. Last Saturday they powered him to within one hundredth of a second of the oldest men's world record, the 200 metres freestyle.

Tomorrow in the 400 metres, Thorpe lines up with Olympic champion Danyon Loader and his team-mate Grant Hackett, second to Thorpe at this year's World championship, to do battle for Commonwealth gold and the chance to set a new world record. Thorpe's best is 3:46.29 and he has to break the 3:43.80 set by Kieren Perkins in 1994. It would be quite a feat but Thorpe's improvement has been awesome.

In the 1996 Australian Nations he won every event in his age group. When he turned 14 he won an unprecedented 10 age group gold medals, all in state record times - and the following January he found himself world champion.

Doug Frost, his coach at Milperra, New South Wales, said: "To be as good as he is at this age only means he is going to get better. How good he can be is anybody's guess."

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