Decommissioning the Thorpedo

Imagine you’re Ian Thorpe. Imagine you’ve won more gold medals than any other Australian, ever. Imagine that swimming the 400m was so easy for you that you didn’t even bother, choosing instead to compete in the tougher sprint disciplines where you didn’t automatically win. Personally, I find this a bit difficult to imagine. But I’m willing to try.

Then imagine you were a millionaire, famous around much of the world, and had lots of other business and entertainment opportunities. And imagine you’d just moved to Hollywood, and were hanging out with lots of other famous mates like Heath Ledger and Michelle Williams. Could you be arsed getting up at the crack of dawn to go swimming? I know I couldn’t.

The guy’s got nothing left to prove in the sport, and he’s still only 23. He spent most of his youth obsessively ploughing up and down a pool, so is there any wonder he wants to have a bit of fun now? It’d be one thing if it was a sport that’s incredibly fun, like soccer or tennis, but competitive swimming is a lonely, repetitive boring sport. I imagine, it’s not like I ever had the skill or inclination to try it.

What motivation is there? To be the best? To be the best of the best, even? Been there, done that. And all he got out of it was Undercover Angels.

He’s even got a brand spanking new aquatic centre named after him. Already. What’s he shooting for if he swims on, another one? He still holds three world records, and I can’t imagine meeting the Prime Minister yet again is all that much of an incentive either.

And please, don’t talk about doing it for your country. His country isn’t the one that has to get up at the crack of dawn and do lap after lap. And it’s pretty clear that we aren’t doing that, given our general obesity problem.

Personally, I’d be living it up too. Maybe not in precisely the same way. Maybe not by developing my own range of pearl necklaces or modelling for Armani. But each to their own.

So Thorpey, put your ridiculously oversized flippers up and relax on that sofa. If you can be bothered turning up in Beijing for the 2008 Olympics, great. But that’s two years away, and we know you’ve won gold after a relatively brief training period before. Up to you. We’ll be here on our sofas if you ever want to get up off yours.

And everyone else, lay off the guy. He didn’t ask to have the perfect body for swimming 400m races. Especially the media – there’s been enough hype about him to last several lifetimes. We should give him a year off as well. Hearing about him has gotten more dull than the first 1450m of a 1500m race.

There’s just one thing we ask of you, Thorpey, if we’re to leave you in peace. Don’t make another series of Undercover Angels.

Dominic Knight

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