(Reuters) - Five-times Olympic champion Ian Thorpe’s latest setback in his bid to swim at this year’s London Games was not as terrible as it first appeared, his coach said Friday.
Australian head coach Leigh Nugent said there were mitigating factors to Thorpe’s pedestrian time in a 100 meters freestyle race in Zurich last week.
Thorpe, dubbed “Thorpedo,” clocked 52.28 seconds, a time unlikely to secure him even a relay berth at the March 15-22 Australian trials.
After meeting Swimming Australia’s performance science manager Bernard Savage, Nugent said Thorpe had not been shaken by his latest poor performance.
“Bernard Savage was there and he got the impression from Ian that he didn’t really want to swim there,” Nugent said.
“In the 100 his goggles came off and that did him in a bit psychologically.”
Thorpe swam three minutes and 59.48 seconds for the 400 meters in Zurich in his last outing before the Olympic trials.
“In the 400 he never raced for performance. He raced it more as a cruising swim and he felt pretty good about that.
“When we’re not there and we’re not privy to strategies, we often read the wrong things into the result.
“If you had have asked me last Sunday, I would have gone ‘Oh, it’s terrible’.
“Bernard told me he was in pretty good shape and appears to be swimming very well and he seemed very good psychologically.”
The 29-year-old Thorpe has failed to impress since his comeback to competitive swimming last November, disappointing at meets across Asia after returning from a five-year absence.
Nugent believes Thorpe’s best hope of qualifying for his third Olympics in London is the 200 meters, a distance at which he held the world record for six years from 2001.
He also believes Thorpe might struggle to make the individual competition given Australia’s depth in talent.
“Ian has been such an outstanding athlete, it probably doesn’t matter what I think,” Nugent said, refusing to write Thorpe off.
“The guy has the capability to do the unexpected. I wouldn’t rule him out of anything.
“His greatest odds are to make the relay but as an individual, who knows?”
Reporting by Alastair Himmer in Tokyo; Editing by Patrick Johnston