Race on for London
KINGSCLIFF'S Matthew Abood had a simple message for Ian Thorpe: Catch me if you can.
With the greatest of respect, the 24-year-old reminded Thorpe he would have to swim as fast as he ever had in his life to qualify for Australia's Olympic team in 2012.
Thorpe, aged 28, yesterday announced he would make a return to the pool, concentrating on the 100m and 200m freestyle, in the hope of representing Australia as an individual, or as part of a relay team at the London Games.
Abood is in the top five 100m freestylers in Australia and will also be seeking a ticket to London.
“He is the one who is going to be doing the chasing from now on,” the 50m and 100m specialist said.
“There is 18 months to the Olympic trials and he is probably going to have to swim as fast as he ever has over the 100m free to make the team.
“There are about six guys vying for positions on the team who are swimming that quick; it is not the easiest team to get on.
“But in saying that his achievements – and what he has done in the past – is a pretty awesome display of talent and I think it is definitely possible for him to make the team, though he is not a sure thing.”
Thorpe's fastest time over the 100m is 48.56 seconds, set at the 2004 Athens Olympics wearing a now-banned suit. It was only bettered by an Australian swimmer once last year, by Eamon Sullivan at the last Australian championships.
“I think by next year, if he can swim somewhere around there, that will assure him a spot on the team to get to London,” Abood said.
“He swam in that body suit, and now he will have to swim without the suit, so that will be another change for him. But he is a talent, one of the world's best swimmers ever, so I am sure he is capable of doing it.”
Having registered with anti-doping authorities yesterday, Thorpe can't swim competitively for nine months.
Abood, who swam the 26th fastest time in the world for the 100m last year (48.91), has plenty of swimming to do before then, but he is looking forward to the prospect of competing against a boyhood hero.
“To potentially compete with, or against him is something I find pretty exciting,” he said.
“I watched him as a young kid, when he competed at Sydney, and also at Athens. He was one of the swimmers the young guys looked up to, so to come up against him will be a big occasion.”
Abood recently returned to Australia from Mexico where the Australian swimming team did high altitude training and said he was feeling good ahead of the NSW State Swimming Championships this weekend.
The state championships are the perfect lead up for the Australian Championships in April.
“I have been feeling good and swimming well,” Abood said. “The state championships in Sydney next weekend will give a good indication of where everyone's at and where everyone is going only six weeks out from the Australian Championships.”
Abood had no doubt Thorpe would still have an intimidation factor for opponents and would inspire his team-mates.
“Knowing what he did to (American) Gary Hall in the relay at the Sydney Olympics, that would frighten anyone to no end,” he said.
“The things he has done will inspire his team-mates, for sure.”
Abood was in the top five Australians in both the 50m and 100m freestyle last year, but the ban on swimming suits has changed the playing field.
He would love to make the world championships this year, and then London in 2012.
“It is something I definitely want to do and I am training towards that now,” Abood said.
“(London) is the major goal in my sights and there are a number of stepping stones and processes in place to get there and to ensure my chances of getting there.”