MEET IAN THORPE
Thorpe: From belly flop to star of the small scree
Once allergic to chlorine, he’s blossomed into the top superstar of swimming. Eurosportnews Guest of the Week Ian Thorpe tells all from his humble beginnings to his penchant for shocking questions and more seriously, his brush with death on September 11 2003.
At age 20, the Thorpedo has already been the talk of the swimming world for four years, with his sights set firmly on joining Mark Spitz, Vladimir Salnikov and Alexander Popov in the sport"s elite.
While talent is gifted to very few, the Sydney-born swimmer feels there is far more to his success than just natural ability. "It is a combination of what I do in training and what I do to prepare myself mentally&hellip I"ve been given a gift so that"s something I can"t force, it"s something that just happens."
With 22 world records, a trophy cabinet full of medals and prestigious awards, including the 2002 Worlds Most Outstanding Athlete, formally known as the Jesse Owens Awards, spectators would think he"d get blasé about his success, but no! New coach Tracey Menzies has Thorpe training like a man possessed. Ten sessions a week, starting with a 5AM dip in the pool, then boxing and weight sessions.
THORPE: From belly flop to superstar
Performance-enhancing drugs? Thorpe takes an unequivocal stance against doping. "I think the credibility of sport lies in children being able to look up at their [sporting] heroes. I looked up to people and I didn"t want to question whether they were on drugs."
What about his trademark bodysuit?
"I wear it because in the water, it feels different. You don"t feel a wet sensation, you only get a cool sensation of the water going past your body." Thorpe believes that it optimizes performances by 0.001 seconds over 100 metres." The big problem: "it [the wetsuit] is ridiculously tight. I have to shave down because otherwise the hairs actually poke through."
His meeting with the ex-President of the United States confirmed Thorpe"s observation. "I was in Washington, I"d been invited there by Chelsea Clinton, who I"d met during the [Sydney] Olympics and the President had come from a meeting he"d had - and one of the first things he wanted to find out was how his nephew had done in a soccer game.
"Once again it reinforces how someone just leads a normal life."
The Queen of England however is very different. The leader of the Commonwealth, whom Thorpe once described as: "Just like a little old lady that lives down the street and makes you cookies."
"It"s difficult when you meet someone of such celebrity, it"s just small talk." Small talk or not Thorpe thanks his lucky stars for his most humbling experience.
BRUSH WITH FATE
On the morning of September 11th, Ian Thorpe happened to be in New York City for some sightseeing. He woke up unusually early and went for a jog downtown, got as far as the World Trade Center, and jogged back to his hotel room in Midtown to pick up his friend and a camera. When they flicked on the television before heading out, they discovered that the first plane had crashed into one of the Twin Towers.
THORPE: September 11 near-miss
"Basically in that time, it happened. I turned on the television and noticed something terrible had happened. At that stage I didn"t know it was a terrorist attack," he said.
"For myself you reassess what"s going on in your life, what"s important and what"s not so important and I took a look at what I"ve achieved and what I"m doing and you know, I was pretty happy with everything."