Photo and story by Stephen J. Thomas
SYDNEY, Australia, 19 November. IT was as though he had never been away from the competition pool such was the class of Ian Thorpe in the prelims of the 100 freestyle, on the first day of the FINA World Cup meet at the Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic Centre. The Aussie superfish clocked a very swift 47.87, the fastest qualifying time of the morning and just 0.05 outside his PR set at the FINA World Cup meet in Berlin back in 2003. Thorpe finished ahead of South African rival Ryk Neethling (48.03) and Aussie Olympic teammates Ashley Callus (48.41), Brett Hawke (48.63) and Michael Klim (48.98).
Immediately after his race Thorpe announced he had withdrawn from the final tonight, which will certainly be a disappointment to the crowd who was anticipating an exciting head-to-head clash with Neethling in the final.
National Head Coach Alan Thompson announced that Thorpe had said he was very happy with this morning's swim.
"Ian has not been well this week and missed a couple of training sessions and he felt it was better that he did not swim tonight," Thompson said. "I was impressed with his comeback swim and I look forward to seeing Ian back racing again at the NSW Championships in December."
This was Thorpe’s first race since the Athens Olympics some fifteen months ago and indeed he has not swum many races over the short course format in recent years.