ADELAIDE, March 17 (Reuters) - Ian Thorpe’s failed bid to qualify for the Olympic 200 metres freestyle showed the swimmer had not allowed sufficient time to prepare, Australia’s head coach Leigh Nugent said on Saturday.
Thorpe, who announced his comeback a little over a year ago after five years away from the pool, finished 12th fastest to crash out of the semi-finals, casting a pall over the national trials in Adelaide on Friday.
“Watching his preparation it probably hadn’t got to the point where he could do the big, aerobic, high heart-rate training sets he’s used to and he responds to,” Nugent told reporters at the South Australia Aquatic and Leisure Centre.
“But in saying that, he was only interested in the 100 metres for a fair while and he did the 200 metres in the end.
“It may not have been long enough when you look at it now and see where he is when he’s fresh to get fully ready to do the four laps and do it three times.”
Thorpe’s last-chance saloon for London starts on Sunday with the preliminaries of the 100 freestyle, in which the top two finishers will gain automatic selection with the next four making up the remaining members of a six-man relay squad.
He faces a mammoth task to finish in the top six of that event, however, which features world champion James Magnussen and the other members of Australia’s gold medal-winning relay team from last year’s world titles in Shanghai.
Thorpe consistently played down his chances of qualifying for London in the lead-up to the trials, but was inconsolable after his failure, rating it the most disappointing race of his career.
Another failure in the 100 freestyle would count as a major embarrassment for governing body Swimming Australia, which has come under fire for funding an expensive training programme to facilitate Thorpe’s comeback and those of a clutch of former Olympic champions competing at the trials.
Nugent said Thorpe’s ongoing funding would be worked out after the trials and defended the expense of his comeback, which local media have estimated cost Swimming Australia A$150,000 ($159,000), up to 10 times as much as other front-line swimmers at the trials.
“There’s always hindsight, you have to do what you do at the time, you make a decision, you go with it and what else can you do?
“I feel for Ian. High performance has all sorts of risks to it. You’ve got to go with it and as he said like a fairytale or a nightmare and last night, Ian expressed it was a bit of a nightmare for him.
“I wouldn’t look at it as a nightmare. It’s all been part of our journey and it’s still going.
“Ian brings everything. He brought so much exposure, criticism, accolades, everything. The guy is an enigma here and he’s like no one else in how people respond. The pool was packed last night and I haven’t seen that with anyone else here.”
(Editing by John O’Brien)
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