MELBOURNE, Australia, March 7. HYPED for months as the site of Ian Thorpe’s return to major competition, the Commonwealth Games were dealt a serious blow on Tuesday when Thorpe announced his withdrawal from the event in Melbourne. Thorpe made the decision due to his inability to shake a virus that has plagued him severely for the past few weeks.
Thorpe indicated that he had suffered from a bout of bronchitis and had also caught several additional bugs that sapped his energy and made training virtually impossible. In his current condition, Thorpe indicated that he would have had difficulties advancing even to a semifinal, let alone be able to compete with the likes of South African Roland Schoeman and Simon Burnett of Great Britain. Thorpe was scheduled to contest the 100 and 200 freestyles, in addition to handling relay duty.
The five-time Olympic gold medalist made his decision after consulting his doctors, coaches and officials from Swimming Australia. The Commonwealth Games are scheduled to begin March 15 and Thorpe was undoubtedly going to be one of the biggest draws. Which swimmer replaces Thorpe will be determined in the next couple of days.
"It's been a very trying time for me, a very difficult time, realizing that (competing at the Games) was slipping away from me," Thorpe told The Australian Associated Press. "It was difficult coming to the decision to not compete. But in the end it was a decision I had to come to. It wouldn't have been a good performance by me if I did compete… I would have been of little, if any, benefit to the team. I've had bronchitis… and because I've been so run down I've picked up other things as well… I have never taken so many tablets before. I would have done more damage than good if I had competed."
With Thorpe out of the competition, the Australian men will be without their top two guns, as Grant Hackett will miss the meet after having had shoulder surgery. Craig Stevens will take the slot vacated by Thorpe and will race the 400 and 1,500 freestyles. With Thorpe out, the 100 free lost a good deal of its luster. The race was to feature Thorpe, Schoeman, Burnett and South Africa’s Ryk Neethling.