2024 Australian Olympic Trials: Remembering Thorpie’s Fall 20 Years On – Expect the Unexpected

Ian Thorpe
THE FALL THAT STOPPED A NATION: Ian Thorpe's unceremonious fall in 2004 that left a nation holding its breath. Photo Courtesy Paul Seiser.

2024 AUSTRALIAN OLYMPIC TRIALS (June 10-15): Remembering Thorpie’s Fall 20 Years On – Expect the Unexpected

The Olympic Swimming Trials can be assured of one thing “expect the unexpected” come Monday at 11am in Brisbane when the gun goes to kick-start the opening session of Australia’s six-day selection meet for the Paris Olympics, from June 10-15.

It marks 20 years since the legendary Ian Thorpe’s unceremonious fall from the blocks at the 2004 Trials, tumbling into the pool during the heats of the 400m freestyle – and the swimming world stopped.

No one saw that one coming!

It unfolded in lane four at the Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic Centre – the defending Olympic champion suffering immediate disqualification from his Olympic gold medal event he had won in that very same pool and that very same lane, four years earlier.

It was a slip that left the entire pool deck and the swimming world aghast with “Thorpie just fell in the pool” comments – his 2004 Olympic title defence seemingly sinking in his pool of dreams.

Fortunately everything turned out Ok, the planets aligned, and his training partner and 400 qualifier Craig Stevens relinquished his place after also qualifying in his pet event the 1500m.

Allowing his mate and training partner Thorpe to join his long-time sparring partner, Grant Hackett in an epic defence of his crown in Athens.

An emotionally-charged Thorpe out-touching Hackett in a memorable 1-2 finish for Australia – winning gold in his last ever 400m swim.

Thorpe’s win, the sixth time Australia had taken out the coveted men’s 400m freestyle – and the second successful defence following Murray Rose’s back-to-back golds in 1956 and 1960.

Rose, “The Seaweed Streak” and Hollywood hunk who had wooed the California movie and surf set with his blond locks and Aussie charm during his time swimming at USC.

With the other two Australian 400m golds going to Brad Cooper, (Munich ’72) and Mack Horton (Rio, 2016) along with a host of silver and bronze medals.

Monday’s opening Trials Session at the Brisbane Aquatic Centre, Chandler, will again feature the men’s and women’s 400m freestyle blockbusters that will book-end the opening day of a helter-skelter week in the water – with the Dolphins team for Paris named on Saturday night, June 15.

Sam Short and Elijah Winnington 800m

DUELING WORLD CHAMPIONS: Sam Short (L) and Elijah Winnington.Photo Delly Carr (SwimmingAustralia).

The 2024 men’s 400m will be a must watch duel in the pool with Australia’s two world champions Sam Short (Rackley, QLD; Coach Damien Jones ) from 2023; and Elijah Winnington (St Peters Western, QLD: Coach Dean Boxall), from 2022; – two of the fastest 10 swimmers in history – both with claims to win Australia’s seventh gold medal in the Olympic 400m freestyle in Paris.

Short, a controversial omission from the Tokyo team, is gunning to make his Olympic debut with a pb of 3:40.68 – just over half-a-second outside the world record and Thorpe’s Australian record (the second fastest time in history). Tokyo Olympian, Winnington’s winning time from the ’22 Worlds 3:41.22, is only a stroke behind.

The only others in the field with times under 3:50 under are Matthew Galea (SOPAC, NSW; Coach Adam Kable) 3:47.54 and Brendon Smith (Griffith University, QLD; Coach Michael Bohl) the Tokyo bronze medallist in the 400IM 3:47.95 who will use the event as an early prep swim for his IMs and Joshua Staples (St Peters Western, QLD: Coach Dean Boxall), 3:48.76 – with all three boys looking for personal bests.



Australia’s 400 Club All-Time Top 8

  1. Ian Thorpe 3:40.08 – Olympic champion, 2000, 2004; World Champion 1998, 2001, 2003; (former world record holder)
  2. Sam Short 3:40.68 – World champion, 2023
  3. Elijah Winnington 3:41.22 – World champion 2022
  4. Mack Horton 3:41.55 – Olympic champion, 2016
  5. Grant Hackett 3:43.27 – World champion, 2005
  6. Jack McLoughlin 3:43.27
  7. David McKeon 3:43.71
  8. Kieren Perkins 3:43.80 – World champion, 1994 (former world record holder)

I’LL BE BACK: Ariarne “Arnie” Titmus looking forward to strutting her stuff in Paris. Photo Courtesy Wade Brennan Photography (Speedo)

The women will kickstart the program – world record holder and defending Olympic champion Ariarne Titmus (St Peters Western, QLD; Coach Dean Boxall) verses World Short Course champion and Olympic hopeful Lani Pallister (Griffith University, QLD; Coach: Michael Bohl).

Titmus, Australia’s middle-distance freestyle queen of the pool – a dual Olympic champion in the 200 and 400m,  who owns five of the fastest 10 times for 400m in history.

The defending Olympic and 2023 World Champion and world record holder (3:55.38/Fukuoka ‘23) with a five-year unbeaten record over the 400m since her 2019 World Championship triumph in Gwangju.

Titmus comes into these Trials ranked the current No 2 in the world (behind Canada’s former world record holder Summer McIntosh – 3:59.06) with her Australian Open winning time of 3:59.13 swum at the Australian Championships on the Gold Coast last month.

FASTEST 400s In History…

  1. Ariarne Titmus (AUS) 3:55.38 – 2023 World Championships, Fukuoka
  2. Summer McIntosh (CAN) 3:56.08
  3. Ariarne Titmus 3:56.40 – 2022 Australian Trials Meet, Melbourne
  4. Katie Ledecky (USA) 3:57.36
  5. Ariarne Titmus 3:56.69 – 2021 Olympics, Tokyo,
  6. Ariarne Titmus 3:56.90 – 2021 Australian Trials, Adelaide
  7. Katie Ledecky 3:57.36
  8. Katie Ledecky 3:57.94
  9. Ariarne Titmus 3:58.15 – 2022 Commonwealth Games, Birmingham
  10. Katie Ledecky 3:58.34

Pallister, the emerging star, has been in the best form of her life, with the 2022 World Short Course Champion clocking her LC best of 4:01.75 (second fastest Australian and #6 in the world for 2023-24) swum at the Australian Championships in April on the Gold Coast.

The daughter of 1988 Olympian Janelle Elford, who missed the team for Tokyo, with an undiagnosed illness robbing her of an Olympic dream.

Pallister has not left a stone unturned in her quest to make this team for Paris, returning from one final training camp in Townsville ready to turn her 2021 nightmare into an Olympic dream.

And according to coach Bohl, Pallister is ready.

KICKING ON: Lani Pallister at the Brisbane Aquatic Centre.Photo Courtesy Wade Brennan (Wade’sPhotos)

“Lani has been good all the way through the season; she has been hitting personal bests at meets during the season which she hasn’t done before,” said Bohl.

“In Adelaide at the Trials in 2021, Lani had some health problems that we didn’t know about at the time and which we subsequently found out about but her health seems a lot better.

“Lani is tracking nicely for these Trials although you never know what happens on the day of course but she’s just been consistent.

“I think going over to race those World Cups last year where she punched out three or four PBs was great for her…. followed with some further PBs in the shorter events, the 100, 200 and 400 at the various State titles in the lead up…she has done everything right.”

Can Pallister begin the 2024 Trials in a perfect fashion disposing of the heartbreak of 2021 when she missed the Tokyo team?

Her nomination for Paris would see her realise a lifetime dream of following her mother into the Olympic ranks and she could well become the latest female under the magic 4 minutes, joining Titmus, McIntosh, Katie Ledecky (USA),Federica Pellegrini (ITA) and Erika Fairweather (NZL) in the sub-4-minute club.






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