Ian Thorpe slumps to seventh in first final after return

Ian Thorpe slumps to seventh in first final after return

Ian Thorpe slumps to seventh in first final after return

Australian swimmer Ian Thorpe does the breast stroke on the first lap of the men’s 100m individual medley. AP photo

Five-time Olympic swimming champion Ian Thorpe finished a disappointing seventh in the final of the 100 metres individual medley in a World Cup event on Friday, his first day back in competition after five years away.

The 29-year-old Australian started well with the butterfly leg before losing ground on the backstroke in the second leg and then struggling with the breaststroke as he finished second-last in an event he rarely competed in prior to retirement.

“I’m really pleased with the first 50, the fly leg was great, the backstroke was great and I’m really happy with the underwater work tonight,” Thorpe told reporters.

“I was doing really well and then the breaststroke happened. It wasn’t so bad this morning. It is something I can work on.”

South African Chad Le Clos, 19, won the race with a time of 53.06 seconds, with Thorpe three-and-a-half seconds back.

Earlier, Thorpe had said he was pleased with his sixth-place finish across the heats in his first race back.

Australia’s most successful Olympian will take part in the 100m butterfly on Saturday as he starts his campaign to qualify for the 2012 Games in London, although he is expected to revert to his favoured freestyle.

His struggles in the glamour-free surroundings of the Singapore Sports School in front of a few hundred cheering spectators highlighted the tough task that faces him in attempting to make another Olympics.

“People want to see me do well and see me do well quickly. I prefer to do that, I prefer not to wait,” Thorpe said.

“I haven’t swum for a long time. I have to take stock where I was 12 months ago to where I am now. I’m in a final and competing reasonably well. I’m happy.

“Hopefully with a little more time we can have some good performances.”

Despite his frustrating start, Thorpe’s return to sport will be great for swimming, many people, including Australian athlete Libby Trickett, agree.

The return has provided a much-needed fillip to the sport after the negative headlines surrounding performance-enhancing swimsuits, Australian teammate Libby Trickett said on Nov. 3.

The use of the now-banned super suits led to a number of stunning world records at the 2009 world championships but the legitimacy of those times left many believing they were unfairly set.

Now, triple Olympic champion Trickett said she was pleased she was being asked about positive things happening in the sport as she also prepares to return to international action for the first time in two years.

“In the last couple of years there have been a few negative things happen in the sport, the swimsuits played an issue so to have something so positive bring back the publicity to swimming I think is a really wonderful thing,” Trickett told reporters in Singapore.