By Stephen J. Thomas
SYDNEY, September 21. HE'S already the most popular athlete in his native Australia. He's equally popular in Japan, where hordes of teenage girls shadow his every move. He's negotiating to become "the face" of next year's World Championships in Barcelona.
Now, Ian Thorpe has been voted the most popular athlete in China by readers of the country's national sports newspaper… and he is yet to visit the country!
The Thorpedo will fly to China on the weekend. During his four-day trip, the world record-holder for 200/400/800 freestyle will visit a swim school and attend a benefit-dinner to raise funds for a disabled children's school.
He is quoted as saying "I am very excited to be visiting China for the first time and meeting the people, experiencing the wonderful culture and history and raising money for the children."