Ian Thorpe’s Olympic dream is over for 2012, as he failed to make it out of the prelims of Sunday’s 100 freestyle, which was his only remaining chance at the Olympic Team.
There was some hope for Thorpe after a strong start to the meet in his 200 free (though he’d ultimately fall out in the semi’s there), but he was only able to muster a 50.35 for 21st place in a very deep Aussie 100 free field. That time is not much better than he’s been in his return, which is indicative that he just didn’t have enough time to get all the way back to top form.
The top seed went to defending World Champion James Magnussen in 48.26, followed by Matt Targett, Tommy D’Orsogna, and Eamon Sullivan. There were some names who didn’t make the semi’s, but no real surprises. The competition is going to step up significantly in the semi’s, so swimmers not named Magnussen would do well to go all-out this evening.
Thorpe has not committed to retiring right away, and in fact I’d speculate he’ll at least give a run through next year’s World Championships. Fans around the world will be hoping that he does, as given more time he might just be able to show some glimmer of his former self.
There is some curiosity about whether Swimming Australia coach Leigh Nugent would make an exception, and give Thorpe another opportunity to make the team. There is certainly that precedent in Australia (including the World Championships last year with Libby Trickett). Nugent alluded in pre-meet interviews that in the right situation, he would certainly find a spot for Thorpe to earn his way onto the Olympic Team, but insisted that he would have to be very close by traditional qualifying. Without even making a final, it’s not clear that this would qualify as “very close”.
The anger within Australia’s community of swimmers would grow if that were to happen – reportedly, Swimming Australia has already provided $150,000 in funding for Thorpe’s comeback, netting themselves only a single semi-final berth. The huge group of young, elite swimmers has been left scratching their heads as to whether the money could have been better spent.
The other big-time men’s comeback swimmer, Michael Klim, fared better however with a 49.79 to make it through to the semi-finals. It’s not clear how much more he’ll have though to get to the 49-low it’s going to take to final.
The 100 free was the most impressive swims of the session. Brenton Rickard took the top seed in the men’s 200 breaststroke in a ho-hum 2:15. Christian Sprenger was only a 2:20 for 9th, but later decided to pull out of the semi-finals and focus on the 100 for London – where he was the champion earlier in this meet. He’s been a better sprint breaststroker of late, but he was also a bronze-medalist in the 200 at the 2009 World Championships.
Samantha Hammill took the top seed in the women’s 200 fly in 2:11.14, ahead of two-time World Champion Jessicah Schipper in 2:11.87. Schipper is much more comfortable with her experience in this 200, than she was in the 100, and with that 100 qualification under her belt, and no Stephanie Rice in the race, she will be much faster in later rounds.