Tuesday, November 21, 2006

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."


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