Read The Guardian
Despite being the son of a talented Australian cricketer, as a boy Ian Thorpe was useless at ball sports (an affliction with which Heroes of Swimming sympathises; in fact, we wonder if Ian is also a rubbish dancer). Thorpe’s older sister told him to come swimming with her instead, but he was allergic to chlorine and had to swim with his head out of the water. It didn’t stop him winning his first race.
By the time he was 13, Thorpe was already more than six feet tall. He was also now putting his face in the water, and going extremely quickly: at 14, he ducked under the four-minute barrier for 400m freestyle, and a few months later he shaved that time down to 3:53.44 at the Australian Swimming Championships. It got him into the team for the Pan Pacific Championships as the youngest Australian swimmer ever to represent his country.