Tuesday, November 21, 2006

VDH: "I will miss competing with Thorpe..."

Pieter van den Hoogenband and Ian Thorpe competed each other in some breathtaking clashes at major tournaments these past years. VDH says he will really miss these clashes.

"It will be weird not to compete with him any more", the Dutch Olympic Champion commented on his rival's retirement. As VDH also had to fight his way back to the top after his hernia operation last year, he understands Ian's decision.

"I understand it's hard to find the right motivation when things aren't going your way for a while. I've been through that myself”.

New clashes with Thorpe were a great motivating factor for VDH to work even harder at this comeback. "I looked forward to competing with him again. It will be really weird not having that 'big black fish' swimming in the lane next to mine", VDH referred to his rival's black swimming suit.

"Because of Thorpe I always had to push my own limits. I really wanted to compete with him next year at the World Championships in Melbourne. But let's not be too dramatic about this. He's healthy and alive. It's just a shame he won't be around any more."

Thorpe: Retirement Speech

Ian Thorpe mentions at the very end of his retirement speech how much he had enjoyed competing with Pieter van den Hoogenband.

Edited highlights of Ian Thorpe's retirement speech and selected answers to questions from reporters:

"You've seen my swimming career very publicly since I was 15. I was catapulted into the international limelight as a kid and my swimming career started a long time before that. You guys didn't see it, but I saw it. And it's continued since that, and I'm certain everyone here's seen it."

"I've reached all of the dizzying heights of this sport, and had a tremendous amount of success that I never thought would happen for myself, and for all of that I'm extremely appreciative."

"I've also had some setbacks. I've been sick, I've had injuries, all those things I've had to work through."

"Basically the last bout of them sent me to LA, where I could actually focus on what I was doing with fewer distractions than what I have here."

"And it was a great thing. I don't know if I've been as fit as I was when I was in LA. I had physical and athletic prowess that I hadn't seen before, and that was thanks to Milton Nelms and his techniques and methods while I was in LA, which I'm very, very grateful for."

"One other thing happened in LA. As I got fit, physically fit, my mind also got fit. I started asking a lot of questions. I started to look at myself, not just as a swimmer, but as a person."

"Another way of looking at it is you can swim lap after lap, staring at a black line, and all of a sudden you look up and see what's around."

"That's what it feels like to me. (I) asked more questions, asked what the relevance of swimming was for me. I know it was different to what it was two years ago, it's different to what it was five years ago, it's different to what it was 10 years ago, and it most definitely is very different to what it was 15 years ago."

"So that begged another question. What would my life be like without swimming? It's a very, very dark question for me because swimming's provided a safety blanket. It's been a security net for me where if I'm not certain about developing other sides of my life, I just fall straight back into swimming."

"What it's meant is I haven't balanced out my life as well as I should. So with this question being asked, I realised that I had to prioritise other things and had to let swimming take a bit of a back seat at this stage. It was a very important thing, it was a very difficult decision to make because swimming has provided that security and I was going out after my fears."

"With that question the first reaction was fear. But what also happened was I was excited. I was excited about the prospect of other things being in my life."

"So I'm looking at a next phase, and that next phase means that I am realigning what's the most important thing for me to do. And those important things, I don't want to rank or list them in any particular order, but swimming falls somewhere short. It's not at the top of the list, which has never happened before."

"In another way of shortening this ... as of 2.53 Sunday afternoon I decided I wouldn't be swimming at the world championships."

"I also made another very difficult decision that day, that I'm actually going to discontinue my professional swimming career."

"It was a tough decision, but one that I'm very pleased that I've made, and I've been working towards this decision for quite some time. I'm a 24-year-old, and only just 24 as well. I'm young enough to still see the new challenges, and be able to accept them within my life. But I'm also old enough now to realise all of those accomplishments that have got me to this point."

"I also know there's a lot of people out there that are going to want me to still swim. I really hope that I wanted to swim half as much as other people wanted me to. I also realise that it would be dishonest to myself, dishonest for everyone else, if I was to continue on that basis, because it wouldn't be for me, it would be doing it for someone else. It wouldn't be fulfilling my own dreams, it would be fulfilling the dreams that other people have for me."

"Another wonderful thing has happened. I've been able to take more pride in my accomplishments. At the time I was moving from one to the next, and didn't have a chance to reflect back on them. Now I do, and I am as proud as I've ever been, and I am more proud of all those achievements now that I've stepped away from the sport and not prioritising it."

"I also am very proud of this decision that I've made today. It's a decision that has been difficult. It would have been easier for me to follow the status quo, but I realise that there are things in my life that are more important to me, and I have to pursue them now. I have to pursue those because they are the things that are going to make me a better person, and allow me to continue to contribute to this country and to what I want to do in the future."

"I'm investigating doing a television program with Foxtel at the moment, which I'm really looking forward to. And I'm going to be doing something good. I don't know what it is yet, and I'm not 100 per cent certain, but it's going to be good."

"This is a story that a lot of people want to hear. I realise the interest and I can see the interest right now. So I ask that when a little child asks their parents tonight 'Why is Thorpie not swimming anymore?', that they have the right information, they have the information from my mouth, and are able to give the right answer. That's all I ask for."

"I have a lot of thank-yous. I'd like to thank everyone in this country. I'd like to thank everyone for the support that they've given me. It's been unwavering, it's been incredible. I don't know where it's come from, but it's just a wonderful thing to know you have so many people care for you and love to see me do what I do. I know that I inspire people but I've been inspired by those same people that get that inspiration from me. I'm very grateful for that, I'm very grateful for it throughout my career, and probably for the last time in my swimming career, I want to say thank-you for that support."

"It's a thing that we should be celebrating, that's how I feel about this. I've had a great career. It isn't the best time for me to be walking away from the sport, but it's my time."

"I don't see myself competing again. I don't think it will happen. I won't rule it out, I never rule anything out, but it won't happen. Everyone will remember what I did in the pool, but this is one of my proudest moments in being able to stand up here and do this today. I've been working through this actually for a few weeks ... and I've been seeing someone, but I'm not allowed to say their name. They've been incredible, absolutely incredible."

"I want to make sure if there's any athletes that are considering walking away from their sport I want them to get in contact with me, so I can put them over to this person. I've been seeing this person for the last three weeks. I think I would have had a good World Championships, it wouldn't have been great."

"If I stood in from of a mirror, it looked right for me from the outside. Physically I had it there, I could do it, I was physically in shape. Inside I had nothing, it wasn't there anymore.
"My best swimming performance was the 200m freestyle I did before the Olympic Games. I did a short course in Berlin, (I) had been accused of taking drugs and what not from the German head coach. It was a high pressure situation, it was my lead up to the Olympics, and with all of that on me it was a matter of me working out 'how am I going to get through this? Throw something at me, how am I going to respond to it?' And I came up trumps, it was the best swim that I'd done, and it's definitely the best performance that I had in a pool."

"My favourite (Olympic) moment was the 4x100m freestyle relay in Sydney, but the best performance that I had was my freestyle in Athens, because of the state I was in before I swum it. I was really struggling and I was able to lift myself to get there."

"My greatest opponent - I think it's been myself. And especially now, I realise it more and more. I've been the biggest opponent to myself, and it's been hard to overcome."

"I've enjoyed racing against who I would probably consider my two biggest rivals - both Grant Hackett and Pieter van den Hoogenband."

VDH's first comment on Thorpe's retirement

As VDH and 'Thorpedo' were each other's arch rivals - only in the water though, on land they are good friends - the Dutch press desperately wanted a quote from Pieter van den Hoogenband on Ian Thorpe's early retirement.

VDH: "It will be very strange not having that 'black fish' swimming in the lane next to mine..."

Of course VDH gave Thorpe this nickname, due to the fact that Ian always swam in this all black swimming suit.

Check back for more comments from Pieter's coach Jacco Verhaeren and his take on Ian's retirement.

We will sure miss those exciting clashes in the water between 'The Flying Dutchman' and 'Thorpedo'!

Ian Thorpe announces retirement

Five-time Olympic champion Ian Thorpe has stunned the world of swimming by retiring at the age of 24.

The Australian won three gold medals at the 2000 Games in Sydney and added two titles in Athens four years later. But he has barely competed since then because of injury and fatigue, and told a news conference in Sydney he had been weighing up his future for some time.

"I've had a great career. It isn't the best time to be walking away from the sport but it's my time," he said. "I don't think I should be retiring, I think I'm far too young to retire, but it's a thing that we should be celebrating. I've had a great career. It's a decision that has been difficult. I realise that there's things in my life that are more important for me. I've reached all the dizzying heights of this sport. I've had a tremendous amount of success and I've also had setbacks. None of my goals included breaking any more world records. I knew how to do it, but it wasn't as inspiring as it should have been."

Born in Sydney, Thorpe first swam for his country at the age of 14 and set the first of his 13 world records a year later. In addition to his Olympic success, he went on to claim 11 world titles and 10 Commonwealth Games gold medals, six of which he gained in Manchester in 2002.
But he missed the 2005 World Championships after deciding to take a year off and pulled out of the Commonwealth Games this year because of glandular fever.

The Australian sporting icon moved to Los Angeles this year and rumours were rife that he was losing motivation. He was expected to announce his withdrawal from next month's national trials, ruling him out of next year's World Championships in Melbourne. However, speculation that he was thinking of going much further than that was confirmed to a packed news conference. There are suggestions that he might now look into a career in television or film.

"Swimming has been a security blanket but I haven't balanced out my life. I realised I had to prioritise other things and let swimming take a backseat," Thorpe added. "I'm looking at the next phase and that means I'm realigning what the most important thing is for me to do.
"Swimming is not at the top of the list, which has not happened before."

Source: BBC

Monday, November 20, 2006

VDH's arch rival Ian Thorpe might announce retirement

A news conference in Sydney on Tuesday was initially expected to confirm the 24-year-old Australian's withdrawal from next March's World Championships. But reports now suggest he may use it to bring the curtain down on his glittering career in the pool.

Thorpe, who has been hampered by illness and injury, has not competed at a major meet since the 2004 Olympics. His long lay-off has affected his training in the build-up to next month's Australian national trials in Brisbane next month. If he misses those he will be ineligible for the 2007 Melbourne World Championships.

"He's had a long road back. It's been tougher than we thought, so we'll get together in the next 48 hours to make a decision," said Thorpe's coach Milt Nelms.

Double world record-holder Thorpe has won five Olympic gold medals and 10 World Championship gold medals. He has already said his long-term goal is to win another gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where he would become the first male swimmer to win gold at three Olympics. Thorpe recently relocated to Los Angeles and there have been doubts about whether he is still fully motivated. He missed the 2005 World Championships after deciding to take a year off and pulled out of the Commonwealth Games this year because of glandular fever.

Australia head coach Alan Thompson says Thorpe needs to decide soon what his future holds. "I think it is a distraction for Ian - he needs to know where he is going to go for the rest of his life and have a plan in place," he said.

Thorpe's team-mate Grant Hackett, the world and Olympic 1,500m champion, said he would be surprised if Thorpe quit. "Any athlete who has had an extended break has periods where there is a dip in motivation and others where they are highly aroused to compete," he said. "If there was talk of retiring, and he said it tomorrow, I'd find it hard to comprehend. I spoke to him a couple of weeks ago and he sounded very motivated towards Beijing. But he's the only one who can answer those questions. I'm fairly intrigued and interested to see what he's going to announce, just like everybody else."

Source: BBC