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Ian Thorpe wants to help Australia back to swimming gold

July 28, 2013
Ian Thorpe and arch rival Pieter van den Hoogenband embrace after Thorpe won Olympic gold in the men's 200m freestyle in Athens in 2004. Picture: Craig Borrow

Ian Thorpe and arch rival Pieter van den Hoogenband embrace after Thorpe won Olympic gold in the men’s 200m freestyle in Athens in 2004. Picture: Craig Borrow

Five-time Olympic champion Ian Thorpe has offered to help Swimming Australia return to its glory days.

Thorpe, who has been forced to abandon his dream of competing at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics because of a shoulder injury, wants to mentor the Australian team.

He was part of the golden era of swimming and after last year’s worst Olympic showing in 20 years, he approached Swimming Australia officials to see if there was anything he could do to help.

”I have put my hand up to assist because I think I have something to offer,” Thorpe said.

”I would like to be able to not only mentor what’s the senior element, but probably be more actively involved in the junior development in the sport.”

Thorpe said he would like to take up a mentoring role at the world junior championships this year.

”I have put it out there,” Thorpe said. ” have spoken to friends on the board; I have spoken to people at Swimming Australia, and it is a decision they will have to make, whether or not they want to do that.

”I would also like to assist with sponsorship as well.

”That is an important thing to try to get some sponsors back on line, but that’s not my main focus, there are other people in the organisation that can do that.

”The one thing in my return to swimming is that I found my love for it again. I want to see Australia succeed and I want the team to feel like the team I was on.

”That’s what I would like. It was a wonderful period of sport for Australia and the Australian team.”

Thorpe suffered a shoulder injury in training several months ago which derailed his plans of competing at the Commonwealth Games next year and in Rio in 2016.

He will train under the guidance of Gennadi Touretski in Switzerland, but if Swimming Australia is keen for his services he hopes to help re-establish the team culture he experienced during his career.

He said today’s athletes needed to seize on the history and pride that came with being a member of the team.

”I think what Swimming Australia and Australian swimming history has, what we have, is something that is quite unique,” Thorpe said.

”I have seen this now from the outside that Australian swimming and its swimmers are given an iconic status in this sport.

”What needs to happens is we need to look back at what is a very proud history and realise the athletes that are involved, that you are a part of this history –  it’s not all about now.

”The test of being a true champion is having a willingness to pass that on to someone else, so I think there is more we could do in terms of mentorship.

”That is one of the big things that needs to happen.

”We looked at the performances and what happened (in London) and in some ways we felt it diminished what had been accomplished. I think it is an incident that can be overcome. We are already in the process of that.

”I think Swimming Australia and Australian swimming will return and I think it will be as strong as what it was. It just really is this transitional period.”

The fallout from London led to the chief executive and head coach leaving the sport.

Then last month, president Barclay Nettlefold resigned after allegations he made inappropriate comments in front of female staff. EnergyAustralia then invoked a ”disrepute” clause in its contract and tore up its sponsorship a year into a five-year deal. It cost Swimming Australia up to $6.5 million.

The Australian Olympic Committee is still finalising the investigation into the men’s 4x100m freestyle relay team’s Stilnox bonding night on eve of the Games.

The team has been reprimanded by Swimming Australia, but the Australian Olympic Committee will deliver its findings after the world championships in Barcelona.

Thorpe said the behaviour was inappropriate and he was confused when he first heard of the incident.

”At first, I was like, ‘I don’t understand’,” Thorpe said.

”I would like to say it is boys being boys, but when other athletes are being interrupted it’s at that stage that it becomes completely inappropriate and that part of it I don’t understand.

”This is about respect. It’s about respecting not only yourself but other team-mates and that you all want to get the best result out of the competition.”

Thorpe, who travelled with team members through Asia during his comeback and took part in the Olympic trials, admitted he contributed to one of two reviews into the sport.

the sunday telegraph

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