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."