SYDNEY, Noveember 19. AUSSIE superstar Ian Thorpe may skip next year's World Championships in Montreal, forgoing the chance to become the first man to win four consecutive world titles, according to a story by Nicole Jeffrey in today's The Australian.
Thorpe's coach, Tracey Menzies, confirmed yesterday that they were debating whether to spend next year laying a training base in preparation for the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne in 2006 and the 2008 Beijing Olympics or whether to interrupt that process to peak for the Worlds.
"We have spoken about still training but having a down time as far as competition goes," Menzies said.
"No final decision has been made yet. We are going to sit down and work it out when Ian gets back from his break in two weeks."
Jeffrey notes that if Thorpe does not go to Montreal, it would be the first time since 1996 that an Australian team went to a major long-course championship without him.
Menzies said missing the world titles would enable Thorpe to properly refresh himself for the long haul through to his third Olympics.
"I want to give him a year where he can stay at home and work and live a regular life," she said.
menzies, who appears to be leaning toward giving the Worlds a miss, added: "Now that he's had a break, we will have a rushed preparation for the Trials, and another rushed preparation for the Worlds and the Commonwealth Games the next March.
"Looking at the bigger picture, he really needs to get back in and do some work. It's not a six to 12- month plan, it's a four-year plan. He wants to go for another Olympics and that's the pinnacle, and I want to get him there."
If Thorpe sacrifices the Montreal competition, he will lose his two world titles in the 200 and 400m freestyle.
That will give his friend and rival Grant Hackett, who has three 1500m titles, the chance to become the first swimmer to win four in a row. Thorpe has said repeatedly that he does not swim for the accolades. That is unlikely to be a factor in his decision.
Menzies said Thorpe might still race in some off-events at the Australian Championships in March, even if he makes himself unavailable for national selection.
"He has to get that fire in the belly. I think Kieren Perkins did that really well, pacing himself through his career so he was really ready to race at the Olympics."
However, Perkins still fell one medal short of matching Dawn Fraser's historic achievement of winning gold at three consecutive Olympic Games, an opportunity which will be open to both Thorpe and Hackett at the next Games.
Only Fraser and Hungary's Kristina Egerszegi have won back-to-back-to-back Olympic titles in the same event. No man has ever achieved the feat.