FLASH!! Thorpe Withdraws From “Duel in the Pool”

By Stephen J. Thomas

SYDNEY, March 28. AUSSIE Ian Thorpe, triple world record-holder and Swimming World's male "World Swimmer of the Year" the last three years, and Aussie sprint king Ashley Callus have withdrawn from next month's "Duel in the Pool" due to illness.

The decision is a blow to the marketability of the event pitting the world's two great superpowers.

The withdrawal comes upon the heels of similar decisions by Aussie stars Michael Klim and Petria Thomas, all world champions.

The decision by Callus does not surprise as he has been battling with a mystery virus for the past eight months, in recent times having withdrawn from the World Cup meet in Melbourne last December and in January was only able to compete a 100 free club relay swim (albeit a PR 48.92) at the Queensland titles.

However, the news of Thorpe’s illness is much more of a surprise. In the past month the triple world record-holder was talking up his likely performance at the nationals in terms of PR’s (read world records) and although outwardly a little disappointed with his freestyle efforts, finished the meet with four quality wins in the 100-200-400 freestyle, and another in the 200IM (PR and national record).

Australian high performance coach Greg Hodge made the announcement here today at a press after the morning heats. “I need to announce today that unfortunately Ian Thorpe and Ashley Callus have had to withdraw from the Duel Meet on medical grounds,” he said.

“Australian swimming is fully aware of the medical situations regarding these athletes and fully support their decision. This decision is about their short-term health and their long-term performance at the World Championships and in Athens next year. US Swimming have been informed of the withdrawal of these to high profile swimmer.

Australian team doctor Jeni Saunders described Thorpe’s condition as “a serious illness” contracted earlier this year on his return from Europe. “He missed a fair bit of training from that and we’ve been monitoring his progress through this meet very closely.” Dr Saunders said. The nature of the illness was not disclosed by Dr Saunders to protect Thorpe’s privacy.

Thorpe said he was disappointed at having to make such a crucial decision but had no alternative but "to follow medical advice. Dr Saunders and my own personal doctor felt it wasn’t wise to put my body and my health at risk in doing so.

“For myself it’s very disappointing that I don’t have the opportunity to go away with the Australian team and compete against the Americans in this event,” Thorpe said.

Queensland doctor June Canavan has been monitoring Callus’ illness last November.

“His blood tests were abnormal then and we’ve been monitoring him very closely. He’s certainly been compromised going into this meet and my advice is that he should come straight home to Queensland and really should not travel, across the time-zones,” Dr Canavan said.

“Ashley’s performance (in the 100 free) was just incredible. I was with him when he collapsed after the race, his blood pressure was very low and his heart rate sky high. He really almost lost consciousness,” she said.

Callus said at the conference, “swimming on the Australian team what I really love to do, but I’ve got to get over this thing first and hope to shape up for Barcelona and do my best.”

Yesterday Hodge announced that both breaststroker, Brenton Rickard and Heidi Crawford, who look certain to be named in Australia's World Championship team, would miss next month's Duel in the Pool with the USA in Indianapolis, due to illness and injury.

"Brenton Rickard has had his appendix out on Wednesday," Hodge told the media conference.

"On the days he swam he's actually had the injection to stop the vomiting and diarrhea and he was still carrying on after the race so they flew him home to Brisbane. Dr June Canavan (QAS doctor) actually suspected it was his appendix and she was spot on and we've heard from him today.

"He's feeling a bit sore but pretty good and much better, which is good. So he'll be out of the US trip but it won't affect him for the world championships."

"Similarly, Heidi Crawford has had a hip problem for some time and she goes in to have surgery on her hip next Wednesday. She has a tear in the hip joint. She's been carrying the groin injury all summer and it's really affected her hip mobility and therefore her kick."

They join the growing list of leading Australian swimmers either ill or injured right now, which includes Michael Klim, Petria Thomas, Clementine Stoney, Lori Munz and Scott Miller.