Thursday, November 5


Before Michael Phelps raised the bar has high as humanly possible, there was Ian Thorpe - pictured - who retired in 2006. Recall Thorpe the youngest men's world champion in swimming history at the age of 14, by winning the 400 freestyle final at the 1998 world championship. 14, dude. He went on to win five Olympic gold medals and ten Commonwealth golds. From 1998 until retirement, he dominated the 400-meter freestyle, winning the event at every Olympic, World, Commonwealth and Pan Pacific championships, excluding a brief break following Athens. He took home 11 World tiltes - the most by any swimmer until Phelps. At the 2001 World Championships, in Fukuoka, Japan, Thorpe grabbed a record six titles (also broken by Phelps). From 1999-2002, Thorpe broke 13 World Records. He won Swimming World Magazine's 'World Swimmer of the Year' award four times.

Today, not one of Thorpe's records stands, not even his remarkable 400 meter long-course freestyle record of 3:40.08 set in 2002. Over several years, Thorpe lowered the mark by five seconds. Some thought this mark would stand 20 years but it went down to Germany's Paul Biedermann who swam 1/100 second faster at this summer's World Aquatics Championships in Rome. Since the body-suit banned from January 2010, unlikely that the 3:40 mark will be broken for a long time. Boy, things have come a long ways since my day. I recall the great Russian Vladimir Salnikov cracking 15-minutes in the 1500 meters - a time some thought unobtainable. He would not make the finals today. Salnikov also the first man under 3:50 for the 400, which he achieved in 1982 at the USR vs. GDR dual meet. That most have been something to see.

Photo, uncredited, from the WWW.

"Being compared to Ian Thorpe, that could be one of the greatest compliments you could ever get in swimming - being compared to him and Mark Spitz."
--Michael Phelps