SYDNEY, February 14. IT came as no surprise at all today when Ian Thorpe confirmed he will pass on the 2005 World Swimming Championships in Montreal this July.
The step was taken with more than a little apprehension as Thorpe's coach, Tracey Menzies, acknowledged that it will be difficult for The Thorpedo to return to peak fitness, though she was quick to say she is confident he has the ability to do so.
"It is definitely going to being a hard path for him to get himself back in shape but it's not something I would do if I didn't think he wasn't capable of coming back," she said.
"I think it has been good that he has had a bit of a break and time to grow as a person."
Menzies confirmed Thorpe would skip the world titles and take a season off competition when she appeared on the ABC's "Australian Story" tonight.
"This year, Ian won't be standing up to race at world titles, which is going to be hard for the Australian team, and hard for his teammates – but it's something he needs to do in preparation for Beijing," Menzies said.
Thorpe has been training at a low-key level since the new year but his fitness levels have dropped considerably since Athens.
Joining Thorpe in Menzies' squad is Craig Stevens, the swimmer who stepped aside so Thorpe could defend his 400m freestyle title at the Olympic Games.
"It's great to have Craig back training," Thorpe told "Australian Story."
"At the moment he's beating me in a few things, which you know I have to deal with – mind you there's some kids that are beating me at some things at the moment, so I'm going to have to deal with that."