Ian Thorpe: "I want to share my Olympic experience with the people of India"
Do you think anyone can dominate the upcoming Olympic games in swimming like you and Michael Phelps did?
I think it will be more on the women’s side. There are two great American swimmers - Katie Ledecky (age 19) has been swimming remarkably and so has Missy Franklin (age 21). I think both of them will be dominant. But we also have some great swimmers in Australia at the moment.
In 100 metres freestyle, we have the number one ranked swimmer in the men’s and women’s. In women’s, we have number 1 and 2. Both sisters. So this will be an interesting story that plays out at the Olympic games.
Was motivation ever an issue for you? You took a break and returned like Michael Phelps
For me motivation was never an issue. I was an athlete that preferred training over competing. So it wasn’t just those rewards of winning medals. I like the experience of training. I was looking at athletes when they’re on top and how long they have been there. It’s only a few years that you get in swimming. Especially in sprint swimming.
Someone like Michael Phelps has been good enough to be in his fourth Olympic games now. His results have varied but he’s been good enough to stay in the sport. For me, I lost my love for it the first time because I didn’t feel as if my swimming career was my own anymore. I felt that I couldn’t train and have the privacy to what I needed to do in training. I wasn’t able to connect with the water anymore. I persisted for a long time and when I returned I got that feeling back. I got back my love for the sport.
What’s been the toughest training routine that you’ve been part of?
I did one at a high altitude where I probably swam 10-11 km in one session. I had to do 3000 metres for time and it was the fastest that anyone had ever done it in the world. I think I did it in 30 minutes and 20 seconds or so.
I can remember we had to do 1000 metres after it which is kind of easy swimming. The I had a heart rate check. I was 20 beats below normal heart rate at around 150 metres. I wasn’t aware I had to do this as well because I had put everything into those 3000 metres. I had enough time to think about whether or not I committed myself to the session.
All the other swimmers were furious with the coach because he kind of deceived us. But I needed to know when it came to race day that I had done everything that’s required so that when I race on my worst day, I am better than my competitors on their best day. I also got out of the pool and yelled at my coach in the end.
Do you like your nickname? Thorpedo
Look I don’t mind it. I have a lot of nicknames. I thought it was kind of creative and cool. The Americans seem to love it.
Are you connected to cricket in any way? Your father was a cricketer
My birthday is very good for cricket in Australia. So my father tried to plan that because I have a great birth date for age group cricket.
When I was younger I was taught to play cricket but I could only use my left hand. So I was never allowed to hit a six. I played at high school a little bit but I wasn’t really passionate about it. Plus, as a young kid I used to go and watch my father play. For a young child, watching a cricket team field is not the most entertaining. So I didn’t have the love for cricket that the rest of my family has.