Ian Thorpe returns for Olympic glory

Suddenly Ian Thorpe is feeling a little bit media-shy.

The move is in sharp contrast to 12 months ago when Thorpe had the chief executive of a sponsor formally announce his sporting comeback to the nation.

Though he is yet to reach his lofty standards of the past, interest remains intense in the star of the Sydney and Athens Olympics – even at this weekend’s low-key meet in Zurich.

“Ian Thorpe will concentrate fully on his two starts and will not be available for interviews,” said a statement on the Swiss Swimming Federation’s website.

Thorpe is renowned for performing on the big stage but he will be keen to see any type of improvement on his times in Switzerland.

Three weeks out from trials, Thorpe is due to compete in the 100m and 400m freestyle on Saturday night EDT at the Hi-Point meeting.

His decision to compete in the eight-lap event is for training purposes with his focus remaining on the 100m and 200m.

To secure an Olympic spot at the trials in Adelaide starting on March 15, he must finish in the top six of either the 100m or 200m.

If picked, the time between trials and the London Games could be enough for him to become a valuable member of the 4x200m relay.

His great rival Pieter van den Hoogenband has been surprised that Thorpe has not been able to post faster times on his return.

He pointed to the Australian’s time of one minute and 51.51 seconds in the 200m in Italy just before Christmas as a worrying sign.

“He is struggling,” he said.

“He is not doing well – I thought he would swim faster. I mean 1:51.5 …

“When you are in training, you did 1:51 without a start and it is so … hopefully he gets better.”

Van den Hoogenband pipped Thorpe for gold in the 200m in Sydney before the Australian reversed the result in Athens.

The Dutchman said Thorpe should concentrate on the four-lap event instead of trying to keep up with 100m world champion James Magnussen and company over two laps.

“If you see Ian, his best (in the 100m) is 48.5 and he has to swim a second faster to catch Magnussen – that is going to be very hard,” he said.

“Tell him to focus on the 200m.”

by Buford Balony

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