Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Man in Black Is Dressed to Thrill

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Man in Black Is Dressed to Thrill

Article excerpt


SWIMMERS woke up at the Commonwealth Games village today to see the words "Thorpe Quits!" screaming at them from the back pages. Unfortunately, only when they reached the Manchester Aquatics Centre this morning was their fantasy dashed once the man in black turned up dressed to devour and it suddenly dawned that the articles had been about some Pom cricketer and not the greatest athlete in the world.

Sure enough, the Thorpedo and his fabled size 17 feet landed with a big splash. Turning up for his rather crowded business week, looking bigger than ever and, very possibly, even more awesome than ever, Ian Thorpe began his quest for sporting history with an effortless victory in his heat of the 400 metres freestyle.

It was the first of 14 races in seven events for the 19-year-old over the next five days which could see him become the first man since Mark Spitz at the 1972 Munich Olympics to win seven swimming gold medals in a single international championship. He himself is deflecting the pressure by saying it's not possible, but nobody else can quite bring themselves to believe him because he inhabits a swimming world of his own.

Evidently, Manchester fancies the biggest star of their Games has his chance. There were no tickets going spare in the splendid but compact 2,400-seater swimming stadium as he made his bow.

The reception for him was rousing, with even a few girlish cheers filling the air which brought to mind the question aimed at the Antipodean heart throb last week by a British journalist. Was Thorpe prettier than David Beckham, the modest Aussie was badgered. "I hope not," he spluttered in response. Ah, but globally, he's arguably more famous.

Anyway, no offence to Beckham, but for pure athletic genius, he can't hold a candle to this fellow.

Here, Thorpe treated his opening race very much like he'd treat one of his crack-of-dawn training outings at his Sutherland pool back home in Sydney.

That deceptively long, lazy looking action pulling him clear only when he decided he'd had enough of dawdling at the front alongside his team-mate Craig Stevens for five of the eight lengths. …

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