Ian Thorpe Believes His 400 Free World Record Could Have Been Faster

Jul 26, 2012; London, United Kingdom; Australian swimmer Ian Thorpe smiles during a press conference one day before the London 2012 Olympic Games at Westfield Shopping Centre. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports
Photo Courtesy: USA TODAY Sports/USA TODAY Sports

Ian Thorpe once revealed his biggest regret in swimming, and it is not what you would expect. After seeking a comeback in 2012 that came up short, Thorpe had a consistent presence in the media after writing an autobiography about his depression in 2012, battling a serious infection in 2014 and coming out as gay a few months later.

He has also continued to make a direct impact on the sport by joining Swimming Australia in the creation of the “Junior Dolphins” program to promote water safety. He re-lived some of his best and worst moments of his career, which included five Olympic Gold Medals before his initial retirement in 2006.


Photo Courtesy: Adidas

Thorpe has admitted that the biggest regret in his swimming career was not swimming all out in the 400 free final at the 2002 Commonwealth Games. Thorpe broke the World Record in that event at 3:40.08, a time that stood until 2009 when Germany’s Paul Biedermann broke the record at the World Championships in Rome.

Thorpe was swimming a total of seven events at the Games and cruised in the 400 final to save himself for other events. He said if he had realized at the time that he was going so fast, he would have gone a little harder in the final.

“I did a 400m swim where I broke the world record in Manchester and I just didn’t realise that I was going as fast as I was,” Thorpe said. “And I knew that I was swimming seven events at that competition and had I known I was going as well as I was I would have tried harder. I had no idea until I was looking up at the board.”

If he had given a little more effort in that race in 2002, Thorpe may still have the world record some 18 years later. This was also not the first time someone “accidentally” broke a world record. Simon Burnett revealed in a 2010 interview that he backed off in the 200 free final at the 2006 NCAAs to save himself for later races. Burnett swam the fastest swim ever at the time that stood for 10 years with a 1:31.20. Katie Ledecky also revealed she “accidentally” broke the 1500 world record in the prelims at the 2015 World Championships.

To watch Thorpe’s world record, click here.


  1. avatar

    Still might be the most impressive record out there. Either that or Peirsol’s 200 back.

  2. avatar
    Bill Bell

    If South Korea’s Park Tae Hwan breKs the 400 wr @ Budapest — as is possible — will be interesting to see if the ” gentleman” who edits swimvortex.com will put an asterisk after his name because he inadvertently used abanned substance sone years ago.

    And one wonders what the GOAT might have done in the flys200 IM @ Beijing had he just swum them rather than those three plus the 400 IM, 200 free and all three relays.

    Doubt Lochte’s 1:54 flat IM would be today’s wr had he cut back some.

    But going eight for eight just shows how incredibly tough he was, physically and mentally, and gives the next GOAT( whomever he nay be) something to shoot for.

    And believe me, somebody’ll come along one of these days and go nine for nine. Phelos topped Spitz and sone obscure 10-year-old is out there now waiting to become the next GOAT.

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