Thorpedo’s set to go swimmingly

Thorpedo’s set to go swimmingly

04 Feb 2011

russell-hoye-thumb Professor Russell Hoye

E-mail: r.hoye@latrobe.edu.au

 

This opinion piece first appeared in the National Times on 4 February2011.

Five gold medals in two Olympic Games is a pretty hard act to follow especially when you’re competing against yourself. But Ian Thorpe’s comeback trail to secure a ticket to the London 2012 Olympics will be successful with or without Gold.

In the past, swimming was the Olympic event to watch with the likes of Michael Klim and Grant Hackett infiltrating household televisions and garnering huge support for the sport. Records were broken, the use of high tech swimsuits was debatable and Australians were proud of its squad.

However, Australia’s performance in the pool has declined over recent years and although Thorpe’s second wind could make a difference in the final medal count, his mere presence will be enough to inspire his team mates and take back at least some of the fans who have migrated to the Indian Premiere League and soccer.

Last week Federal Sports Minister, Mark Abib, announced an additional $2.5M Green for Gold funding allocation designed to snare Gold medals from the Brits during their time as host for the Olympics.

The Thorpedo’s comeback is also great news for the Australian Olympic Committee which has been explicit in its intention to climb back to 5th spot in the medal table in 2012.

It’s uncertain whether the 28-year-old will be able to recapture the form from his last appearance in the Olympic team in Athens when he won the 200m and 400m freestyle Gold medals, Silver in the 4 x 200m freestyle, and a Bronze in the 100m freestyle, and it really doesn’t matter.

Four years of sporadic training and weight gain can have a significant impact on an elite athlete, however as an individual, Thorpe is still a record holder and a household name.

Just by making the Olympic team again, Thorpe stands to reap substantial rewards as a celebrity endorser; something that may well have waned over the years. This will not only boost his profile but hopefully the spirit among the swim squad undeniably present at the Sydney and Athens Olympics.

The Thorpedo’s biggest challenges over the next 542 days will be to train hard enough to be competitive in London while avoiding injury after such a long period out of the pool. Mentally he will have to play down expectations from the Australian public of what he might be able to do once he gets there.

Elite athletes of Thorpe’s calibre don’t make comebacks without some idea that they will get back to somewhere near their best. Thorpe says he is motivated, he has a new coach and potentially some new teammates that will help him get there.

Thorpe might well be on the path to re-claim swimming as a premier spectator sport and if he makes it to London, he will be a certainty to carry the flag at the opening ceremony.

Professor Russell Hoye is Director of the Centre for Sport and Social Impact at La Trobe University.   

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