Washed up swimmers flood Olympic pool

Friday, February 18, 2011 Posted by the sportsloop team
Australians love a comeback. A chance for old heads to show the latest crop of hot shots a thing or two about the competitive nature of sport. Recent history is full of stories of the redemption and glory of comeback kings. But will this be the experience of the Australian men’s and women’s swim team at next year’s Olympics?

The story of Geoff Huegil has been publicised to death. Undergoing a reverse metamorphosis of sorts, Huegil turned from a butterfly (World Champion) into a slug carrying an extra 40 kilos and back again, all within the space of four years from 2004 to 2008.

His return to the top ranks of swimming was complete at the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games where he won gold medals in the 4x100m medley and 100m butterfly, narrowly missing out on the treble, coming second to Kenyan Jason Dunford in the 50m butterfly.

There was no doubt this was a remarkable effort. But now at almost 32 years of age what more can we expect of Skippy? Unable to secure an Olympic crown at the height of his career in the early noughties, will his sense of renewed purpose be enough for the teams oldest member to hold off all comers in London?

Our men’s team in particular has struggled in recent years. There appears a dearth of swimmers with raw ability, hunger for success and news headline appeal. It is this same doubt over the depth of Australian swimming talent that has seen Huegil’s former team mates join him back in the pool vying for Olympic berths. Enter Ian Thorpe.

On the back of his own four year self imposed exile the former Olympic great recently dipped his toe in the water declaring his interest in again tasting success at the highest level. There is no doubting the pedigree, his record speaks for itself – Thorpey has been named World Swimmer of the Year four times, he’s won five Olympic gold medals and eleven World Championship golds, including 6 in the one meet.

However two questions do remain; can he get back to the form that saw him set world records in three distances of freestyle events (200m, 400m and 800m)? And, can he go faster?

It’s a scary thought to think that a man once so dominant he was virtually unbeatable no longer holds any world records. Even his pet event (400m freestyle) now rests with another man, even if it is only by the skin of his teeth.

They’re not all that close though, in fact in some cases Thorpe would have to improve on his PB by a whopping 7 seconds to be competing with the current champions. Notwithstanding the furore those full length swimsuits from another planet caused, these new records stand and should prove more than a handful for the Thorpedo.

Thorpe WR
New WR
200m Free
Mar 2001
P. Biedermann
Jul 2009
400m Free
Jul 2002
P. Biedermann
Jul 2009
800m Free
Jul 2001
Z. Lin
Jul 2009

Along with Geoff Huegil, Thorpe will have some more old friends for company with Libby Trickett and Michael Klim both recently signing on for the reunion tour. Klim even cited nostalgia as part of the reason he was keen to jump back in the pool after training alongside Daniel Kowalski and hearing of Thorpe’s return reminded him of their freestyle relay success in Sydney 10 years ago.

No matter the reasons for their return, there’ll be plenty of people looking forward to finally seeing Thorpe taking it up to Michael Phelps. Heck, let’s give Kieren Perkins and Grant Hackett the chance to tussle with China’s 19 year old sensation Sun Yang for the right to the 1500m crown. Then again, maybe not.

 - DJK
  1. J

    Its great to find blogs like this ... I really enjoy reading about swimming ....Keep up the good work

    Amy C.A


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