After Thorpe’s exit, Rice sweeps medleys

After Thorpe’s exit, Rice sweeps medleys

ADELAIDE, Australia - The Associated Press
After Thorpe’s exit, Rice sweeps medleys

Ian Thorpe looks at his time after the men’s 100m freestyle heats at the Australian Swimming Championships yesterday. REUTERS photo

Ian Thorpe’s comeback bid for a spot at the London Olympics was scuttled yesterday, leaving Stephanie Rice, Australia’s undisputed star of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, to come back into focus at the national trials.

Only hours after five-time Olympic champion Thorpe failed to progress through the heats of the 100-meter freestyle, his last chance for a spot on the Australian squad for London, Rice completed a sweep of the women’s medleys by winning the 200 to ensure she would defend both her 200 and 400 individual Olympic titles from Beijing.

“I don’t regret giving this a go,” Thorpe said. “Compared to how I’ve raced before, how I’ve competed and the success that I’ve had, this does look like doom ... But I’m glad I was willing to put myself out there to give this a shot.”

Thorpe retired in 2006 as the reigning 200 and 400 Olympic champion, and missed the Beijing Olympics where Rice won both individual medleys and was part of the winning 4x200 freestyle relay team all in world record time. She was the first Australian swimmer to secure a spot at London 2012, too, when she won the 400 IM last week.

Despite persistent pain in her right shoulder, she held of world championship silver medalist Alicia Coutts to win the 200 IM in 2 minutes, 9.38 seconds, the fastest time in the world this year. It was also the fastest time Rice has swum without the aid of the buoyancy swimsuits which are now banned in competition.

With the Thorpedo out, attention in the men’s freestyle turned to the “Missile,” as world champion James Magnussen is known. Magnussen had the fastest time in yesterday’s 100 semifinals in 47.93 seconds. He’s targeting Brazilian Cesar Cielo’s world record of 46.91 in today’s final. “I’ll certainly be going for it,” Magnussen said. “I haven’t really had to push through that last 25 (meters) yet ... I’ve still got something in the tank.”

Thorpe didn’t have much to celebrate, acknowledging that he’d put too much pressure on himself by leaving his comeback to competitive swimming until late last year. He has vowed to continue swimming, possibly restoring the 400 freestyle to his program and maybe even having a go at qualifying for the 2016 Olympics.

“When I started this I wanted to get back into the pool. I wanted to be competitive again and I wanted to go to the Olympics,” he said. “I still want to do all of those things. “I’ve missed out on what was a huge goal for me to accomplish, but still the desire I had pre to this, it’s still there.”