Stevens finally takes Thorpe's spot - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Stevens finally takes Thorpe's spot

By Tom Wald 07/03/2006 06:33:19 PM Comments (0)

Craig Stevens was famous for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, until now.

In an intriguing turn of fortunes the swimming journeyman enjoyed an overdue slice of luck by being a late inclusion for the Commonwealth Games at Ian Thorpe's expense.

Stevens is best known for handing Thorpe an Olympic swim two years ago and since then the mild-mannered athlete has had his fair share of ill fortune.

He failed to qualify for last year's Montreal world championships after injuring his back moving furniture and then last month missed the Melbourne Games team by one spot despite winning the 400m freestyle national title.

But the illness-ravaged Thorpe made it crystal clear there was no hint of pay back in his decision to step aside with Stevens the next in line.

"It was not my decision," Thorpe said.

"I am pleased that Craig has the opportunity to swim, I have trained with Craig for a number of years now and I am pleased that he has this opportunity to compete in Melbourne.

"I know with the work that he has done, he will do very good job."

Stevens was particularly careful not to be seen to be revelling in training mate Thorpe's demise as they sat side by side at a press conference in southern Sydney.

He was well aware the point of the conference was Thorpe's withdrawal from the team because of sickness and not his own inclusion.

"I am very grateful for this opportunity and the most important thing at the moment is Ian's health and I am hoping he can get over his bronchitis and get fit and healthy and go on and compete later this year," Stevens said.

However he couldn't help but lighten the mood when he talked up his chances of upsetting Welshman David Davies in the 1500m to continue Australia's stranglehold in the event at Commonwealth level since 1958.

"When you stand up behind the blocks you have the atmosphere and you might not be fully physically right but mentally you feel the buzz and the adrenaline and anything can happen," he said.

Stevens's inclusion was clearly the bright note in a testing day for national head coach Alan Thompson who had sounded out last week how the fringe swimmer was training.

"The cards have fallen into place for us a little bit, he only had a little time off training and the next person in the team was Craig," said Thompson.

"It is a great story that Ian was able to take his place in the 400m at the Olympic Games and Craig now gets his place in this team."

Thompson said former head coach Leigh Nugent had been raving about the training Stevens was putting in following his disappointment at last month's trials.

"My expectations are good with the work he has done I think he can swim faster than at our trials and if he does that it certainly puts him in medal contention in the 400m," Thompson said.

"I think he will be competitive in the 1500m as well."

Stevens benefited from the greater flexibility in the naming of late replacements for Commonwealth Games teams than at Olympic and world championship level.

The swimmer thought he had missed the boat before receiving a phone call on Monday night.

"I thought no, entries are done, it is all said and done," he said.

"But I guess it is a different situation, unfortunately with Ian being sick has given me a spot to swim which I am going to take with both hands.

"I would have loved to have watched Ian swim and it is going to be one of the disappointments of the meet not to see him swim."

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