By Stephen J Thomas
SYDNEY, Australia, March 27. IAN Thorpe, the world record-holder and Olympic champion has been disqualified from swimming his signature event after losing his balance on the blocks and falling forward into the water prior to the starter's gun in his heat of the 400 freestyle at the Australian Olympic Trials.
Thorpe returned to his place behind the blocks but officials informed him he had been disqualified. The crowd watched in stunned silence as the biggest name in Australian swimming gathered his gear together and left the pool deck.
Thorpe has not been beaten in this event since he won gold as a fifteen-year-old from teammate Grant Hackett at the '98 World Championships in Perth. Now he may be relegated to watching the event he was considered a hot favourite to win in Athens.
Thorpe's club has lodged a protest relating to the disqualification and it will be heard later this morning Sydney time. Australian Swimming selection policy only allows for the first and second placegetters in the final of the Olympic trial event to be considered for selection.