SYDNEY (AFP) –
Australia head coach Leigh Nugent predicted on Friday that multiple Olympic champion Ian Thorpe would stun the swimming world by qualifying for the London Games next week.
The attempt by Australia’s most successful Olympian to earn selection for London will be the headline act of the national trials, which begin in Adelaide on Thursday.
Thorpe, 29, the winner of five gold medals at the Sydney and Athens Olympics, has admitted he expects to fail after a string of disappointing results since his comeback in Singapore in November.
Nugent was more optimistic and claimed Thorpe, who has entered the 100m and 200m freestyle events at the trials, was capable of rising to the occasion.
“I think with someone like Ian, the history he’s got and knowing his competitive capabilities, you could never write him out of the equation,” said Nugent.
“I’ve been around a long time. I’ve had a lot to do with Ian and with swimming at this level for almost two-and-a-half decades and with him, you’ve got to expect for him to pull something out of the bag.
“He just has that sort of ability.”
Thorpe was regarded as the greatest swimmer of his generation when he won his five gold medals at the Sydney and Athens Olympics. American Michael Phelps has since won 14 gold at Athens and Beijing.
Despite Nugent’s optimism, Thorpe’s best chance to qualify for London appears to be in the relay with a top-six finish in the 200m making him a contender for a berth in the 4x200m team.
Even that is a tall order, given his best in the 200m since returning has been one minute, 50.79 seconds at the Victoria state championships in January.
That time would have failed to qualify for the final and left him 12th at last year’s national titles.
In the 100m, Australia’s world champion James Magnussen, Matt Targett, Matt Abood, James Roberts and Cameron McEvoy have all been in better form than Thorpe.
Interest in his performances is so high in Australia that Magnussen’s attempt to break Brazilian Cesar Cielo’s 100m world record of 46.91 seconds at the trials is barely rating a mention.