Now the waters of the South Australian Aquatic Centre have stagnated, Ian Thorpe’s London Olympic dream can finally be declared, to borrow a cockney term, ‘Brown Bread’.
The Thorpedo has sunk at the deep end; a now harmless Olympic relic condemned to a life of rotting on the pool bed, the chlorine slowly rusting its shell casing with the demise of the once potent weapon juxtaposed against the ‘no bombing’ sign that hangs poolside.
Maybe I’m erring on the side of the dramatic here, but the last few weeks have certainly been no picnic for our former Olympic champ and it’s safe to say that Crowded Houses’ ‘Don’t Dream It’s Over’ might be on high rotation at Thorpe Manor for some time to come.
Thorpey’s demise puts us Aussie sports fans at a crossroads. We can either break out the violins and soothe Ian with a concerto of former glories or participate in the great Aussie pastime of Thorpe-bashing, an activity from which I derive more pleasure than Margaret Court does from removing ‘The queens’ from every deck of cards she comes across.
Let’s be clear about one thing; this comeback was risky business. So much so that we would not have begrudged the Thorpster sliding out onto the pool deck wearing only a business shirt, some white socks, a pair of Wayfarers and his speedos whilst urging the crowd to take their old records off the shelf.
For starters, his name can immediately be stricken from the record from any previous and future ‘greatest swimmers of all time’ debates. His reputation as an athlete has been more ‘soiled’ than simply ‘tarnished’ and no amount of glory-laden-chlorinated-water from the likes of Sydney or Athens will be able to wash it clean.
The question must be asked – why did he fail so miserably? Are money troubles the wrong motivation for a return to sport? Was it the bag of gold paid by Swimming Australia to fund the comeback hidden somewhere in the budgey smugglers that slowed Thorpey down? Have the next wave of swimmers taken the sport to a level that is unattainable for his post-prime body?
Whatever the reason, it now means that all bets are off, Mr Thorpe. We tolerated your foray into men’s fashion, because of the golden accessories you had hanging around your neck when you stood on the podium. We put up with your vomit inducing tv program (somehow ‘nauseating’ didn’t quite do it justice) because you were superhuman in the pool and retired at your peak.
But now, at 29 years of age, you’re the 12th best swimmer in Australia in your pet event, the 200-free. I doubt the big brands are going to be knocking one another over in the race to sign you to a long term deal and the general public will be far less accepting of your side projects. Personally, I’d be more likely to shell out my hard earned to come and see you in the touring circus as ‘Flipper-man’ than I would to see you as an after dinner speaker.
At risk of patting the Stereotype Dog here, swimmers are largely uninteresting people. It might have something to do with it being a largely lonesome profession, where the black line must be travelled over and over again in preparation for big races. There’ve been a few exceptions to the bland rule over the years – Leisel Jones certainly showed some verve when she burst onto the scene but that might have had something to do with the fact she was only one year out of ‘floaties’ when she competed in her first Olympics, Hayley Lewis had enough personality to talk us into eating more bananas and Kieran Perkins at least entertained us with his ability to swim amazing times with an rather large chip rested on his shoulder. Ian Thorpe is not one of these exceptions.
I don’t profess to have a crystal ball, but at this point the best I can see for you Ian, is pandering to Bruce McAvany on network Seven’s Olympic coverage or maybe a spot flogging ab-machines on day time television.
Hindsight is always 20-20, but maybe you should have thought twice before following in the comeback footsteps of Huegil, Trickett & every rock and roll band on this year’s “A Day on the Green” bill. Like these aging rockers, you also now forced to trade only on hits of the past, because your failure has cost you your superhuman allure, and all the dollar signs that come with it.
I don’t to know Ian personally and cannot speak of his preferences, but if the rumours that have dogged him throughout his career hold any water, then he still has one option to reinvigorate his ailing career. Yes, the ‘Magda Makeover’ could provide the vocation resuscitation the Thorpeado is in dire need of. Between the range of pearl necklaces for men (an instant punchline), the fruity vocal undertones, the regular appearances on Australia’s next top model & the West End Musical poses (see below), you’d be hard up finding someone who was genuinely surprised if Thorpe came out. If it were to happen, it may just open a few doors for the former swimming champion and that is by no means just a reference to the one from the closet.