By Stephen J. Thomas
YOKOHAMA, August 29. AUSTRALIA'S Ian Thorpe had been commissioned by the organizers to appear as the face of the Pan Pacific Games here in Yokohama.
His face adorns posters all over the city and he appears in a television commercial promoting the meet.
On top of that he is endorsing Aquarius sport drink, a product of Coca Cola Japan.
The mere mention of his name by the announcer creates squeals of delight from his enormous following of Japanese teen girls, much as you would expect of a matinee idol in the 50's or the rock stars of today. His appearance on pool deck generates a collective blinding flash of light from one of Japan's most popular pastimes.
One has to wonder how the leading Japanese swimmers must feel about having a "foreigner" showcasing their event. Outwardly when I've asked the question, they have politely said they are happy to have such a great swimmer promote the sport here. One thing is for sure: he has certainly given the sponsors their money's worth.
He has swum here every night and picked up five gold medals to boot. Thorpe is the only non-Japanese swimmer to be interviewed after a race. The questions appear carefully scripted and his answers are translated into Japanese to the spectators and television audience.
Thorpe's performance this week has been crafted despite growing speculation that the relationship between him and Doug Frost, his coach of ten years, was likely to end in the near future with Frost looking to retire. Both have been avoiding making any formal announcement but this may come before the Australian team departs Japan.
Get up close and personal with many of the top women on the U.S. team now competing at the Pan Pacific Championships. The book, "By a Fraction of a Second," chronicles the stories of current Pan Pac team members; Megan Quann, Lindsay Benko, Diana Munz and others. Read how the latest world record setter on the Pan Pac team had her 2000 Olympic dreams shattered.
After reading the accounts in this fast moving, insiders book, you will appreciate even more the continuing excellence displayed by these athletes. Learn what goes on behind the scenes at international meets, as well as how these swimmers recover from disappointment and injury, and cope with allegations of undetected illegal drug use amongst their competitors.
A great book that will motivate swimmers of all ages. Anyone interested in the drama of great swimming competition will enjoy "By a Fraction of a Second."