kuala lumpur 1998: ian thorpe (australia)

openquote.gifThe team officials had put me in a room with the old heads of the team – Phil Rogers Chris Fydler, Matt Dunn and Kieren Perkins. All the talk was about the 200m freestyle world record [Giorgio Lamberti’s 1:46.69 from 1986] – I genuinely thought I would have to break it to beat Michael Klim and I said so. I wasn’t all that confident of doing it though and as the race approached I tried to hose down the expectations saying I’d be happy to just swim a PB.

In the end the final turned out nothing like I had envisaged. I led all the way with Michael Klim not posing a threat, but the scoreboard had malfunctioned and it wasn’t until the 150m mark that the splits finally registered announcing that I was under the world record pace by 0.12 seconds. All the Aussies in the Bukit Jalil Pool were out of their seats and roaring but in the end I just missed the mark by one one-hundredth of a second.

The 4x200m freestyle relay was pretty inevitably a win for Australia with Klim and Daniel Kowalski having taken the silver and bronze in the individual. It was purely a question of whether we could break the world record. I was a bit disappointed with my lead off of 1:47.48, but brilliant efforts from Kowalski and Klim and a solid performance from Matt Dunn got us home under the target by 0.09 seconds. Grant Hackett was the luckless one missing out in a swim off for the fourth spot.

The 100m freestyle was my first swim over the distance at a major international meet. I nailed another PB, 50.21, and only missed the bronze medal by a whisker. Earlier in the same evening I had taken my first real crack at the 400m freestyle world record – Kieren Perkins ‘unassailable’ 3:43.80. I’d ruled out any chance of a new record before the event, but I found myself passing Grant at 150m and charging all the way to the wall in 3:43.35, just half a second over.closequote.gif

Extracted and adapted from “Ian Thorpe. The Biography” by Greg Hunter