Alrighty then, blunt talk by Claire Harvey on The Sunday Telegraph, who finds it “excruciating to watch these two men struggling for glories that never appeared to make them happy in the first place”:
Since the age of about 17 Thorpe has seemed – and I know this sounds odd – particularly uncomfortable as a swimmer. In the pool, he is all fluidity and dolphin curves. His ability is magnificent; that extraordinary physique encasing a determined and contemplative athlete. But I can’t recall ever watching Thorpe talk about swimming without feeling sorry for him. He seemed tormented by the memory of some magnificent adolescent version of himself; a magical young Ian who lived for
just one blinding flash of a moment, and then faded away.
Ever since, Thorpe has been trying to recapture that vanished man. He has always hated the idea that he was predestined to achieve, rather than having created his own success.
A few months ago, working on a story about Australia’s Olympic preparations, I visited the ultra-hi-tech training pool at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra. The boffins there said they’d learnt through tough experience never to publicly mention the fact Thorpe has enormous flipper-sized feet because Thorpe hated, absolutely hated, the implication that he was some kind of physical freak, rather than a dedicated athlete.