Thorpe’s Olympic dream all but dashed

Thorpe’s Olympic dream all but dashed

ADELAIDE - Reuters
Thorpe’s Olympic dream all but dashed

Reuters photo

Ian Thorpe’s hopes of competing in a third Olympic Games laid in jeopardy on Friday after he crashed out of the 200 meters freestyle semifinals at Australia’s swimming championships, leaving him “gutted” and casting a pall over the national trials.

Thorpe, whose rushed comeback bid after five years out of the pool has captivated the Australian public, charged out of the blocks but flagged dramatically in the final lap to finish sixth in his semifinal and 12th overall to miss the final.

The five-time Olympic champion had earlier teased a thrilled crowd at the South Australia Aquatic and Leisure Centre by qualifying equal fifth fastest into the semifinals after a solid swim in his morning heat.

After the semifinal, though, the silence was deafening as he emerged crestfallen for a poolside interview.

“The fairytale has turned into a nightmare. I’ll hear about it tomorrow,” he said, shell-shocked by the pool.

“I guess what I’m probably most disappointed about, I was really pleased with my race this morning,” he later told reporters.

“I swam the race really well this morning, with a lot of control, felt that I’d progress not only tonight, but into the final tomorrow evening. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

“After the race when I experienced that kind of silence I felt not only the disappointment for myself, but the disappointment for other people as well.”

The 29-year-old’s time of one minute 49.91 seconds was more than two seconds behind pace-setter Ryan Napoleon and five seconds adrift of his personal best set in 2001.

It leaves Thorpe with a mammoth task to book a ticket to London, with the 100 freestyle - his last-chance saloon - boasting an ultra-competitive field including world champion James Magnussen and the other members of the gold-medal-winning relay team from last year’s world championships in Shanghai.

The crowd’s disappointment was compounded by the failure of sentimental favorite Libby Trickett, another swimmer on the comeback trail, to qualify in the 100 butterfly.

The triple Olympic champion came third in the final behind winner and world silver medalist Alicia Coutts to miss out on the chance to defend her title in London.

Coutts and runner-up Jessicah Schipper booked their London tickets after weathering a fierce challenge from the 27-year-old Trickett, who has another chance to qualify in the 100 freestyle at the weekend.