By Phillip Whitten
PHOENIX, April 15. HERE in the States, April 15 is a day of action – a day to stop procrastinating and finally do what you’ve been dreading and putting off.
The same is true in Australia, it seems. At least for Craig Stevens, the young Aussie distance swimmer who inadvertently was thrust into the international spotlight when he finished second in the 400 meter freestyle at the Australian Olympic Trials after world record-holder Ian Thorpe was DQ’ed for a false start.
Yesterday, Stevens announced he had hired the management company Team-Duet to help him decide if he should withdraw from the 400 free. He said he expects to announce his plans within a few days.
"It's just depending what's going to be best for me in terms of what I'll
swim," said Stevens, who also qualified in the 1500 and the 4x200m free relay.
Actually, after all the Sturm und Drang of the past two weeks, it’s quite clear what Stevens’ decision will be. The management company, rather than help him decide what to do, almost certainly is helping him maximize his profit from the offers that are pouring in. Television programs, newspapers and magazines reportedly are vying for his exclusive story and are willing to pay Big Bucks.
"Our plans are to spend some time doing our reconnaissance and looking at
all of the various options available, and then in the fullness of time
making a decision," Team Duet's Robert Joske said.
Today, reliable sources in Sydney informed us that Stevens is ready to give it up, that he has decided to surrender his spot in the 400 meter free for the good of Australian swimming and to concentrate on his other events.
Realistically speaking, that choice makes sense. Stevens, who swam a lifetime best 3:48.08 in the Aussie Trials, has only a remote chance of medaling in the 400. He has a much better chance in the 1500, though he is still a long shot. As a member of his nation’s 4×200 free relay, however, he has an excellent chance of winning gold.
Not only that, but he might well become an Australian national hero, falling on his sword for the good of the nation.
If Stevens announces he is relinquishing his spot in the 400 – as it appears he will, given media outlets were scrambling yesterday to gain first release of his decision – it will be left to Australian Swimming to choose a replacement from among the members of the team.
There is no doubt that Thorpe, unbeaten in seven years and the world record-holder, would be that choice. And there is also little doubt that Thorpe would accept the spot, despite previously insisting he would not usurp the role if he suspected Stevens had been subjected to undue pressure.