Thorpe denies rumors of deliberately slow times

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Thorpe denies rumors of deliberately slow times

ADELAIDE, Australia - Ian Thorpe yesterday denied that he has been deliberately swimming slow times since his comeback in order to keep the pressure off of him ahead of Australia’s Olympic trials this week.

The 29-year-old and Australia’s most successful Olympian will attempt to qualify for the London Games after modest results in lead-up events since coming out of retirement in November.

Thorpe, who won a total of five golds at the Sydney and Athens Olympics, has struggled to reproduce any of the times he achieved in his prime, but coaches and rival swimmers have warned against writing him off.

Newspapers Wednesday suggested part of Thorpe’s plan had always been to stay low-key to minimize pressure, with one senior coaching source telling News Limited: “The talk is he is definitely swimming a lot faster than he is letting on.”

At a pretrials press conference, Thorpe denied he had been “foxing” in a string of disappointing showings since returning to competition.

“I’ve been asked this by friends as well,” he said.

“There may have been a period when I first started back, when I was hoping I might be able to do it [foxing].

“But unfortunately I have not had that luxury so frankly, no.”

But the “Thorpedo,” who ruled the pool from 1998 to 2004, taking nine Olympic medals and 11 world titles while setting 13 long course world records, said he was still upbeat.

“I’m probably as confident as I’ve been in my preparation,” he said.

Thorpe will be attempting to qualify in the 100- and 200-meter freestyle events.

Australia’s selection policy is to pick the top two swimmers from each Olympic trial to go to London, with those with a top-six finish in either the 100 meters or 200 meters securing a place on the relay squad.

Thorpe’s 200-meter freestyle then-world record (1 minute, 44.06 seconds) set in 2001 remains the Australian record, but his 100-meter career best of 48.56 seconds only places him ninth on Australia’s all-time list for that distance.

“I’m not sure how fast I can go at this stage,” he said.

“I’m nervous about the upcoming days.”

Asked if he could win the 200-meter freestyle, Thorpe said, “I’ll be trying to, I think I’ll have to.

“I haven’t swam fast enough to say that I can do that .?.?. There are a lot of things I have to get right.”

He added that he would consider making the London team an equal achievement to making it to his first Olympics in Sydney in 2000.

“There will be a tremendous sense of relief when it happens.”

Thorpe and other comeback stars Michael Klim and Libby Trickett have been embroiled in controversy this week over the perception that they have been shown favoritism by receiving handouts above the performance-based funding system.

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