Ian Thorpe ponders what might have been - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Ian Thorpe ponders what might have been

By Tom Wald 19/03/2006 09:31:46 PM Comments (0)

Ian Thorpe is the could have been champion.

The superstar of the pool said from the commentary box before the 100m freestyle that he would have swum under 48.5 seconds if he had been fit for the Commonwealth Games.

He then watched US-based Englishman Simon Burnett pull off an upset win in 48.57s ahead of the misfiring South African duo of Ryk Neethling and Roland Schoeman.

Thorpe successfully predicted the winning time for the race but playing the role of Nostradamus would not have eased the pain of a missed opportunity.

"I actually think 48.5's going to win it here tonight," he said pre-race on Channel Nine.

"I thought I would have been under that here, previously the South Africans were talking 48 lows."

Olympic silver medallist Schoeman was a warm favourite for the event but has not looked himself this week, as Thorpe observed.

"Clearly the South Africans were the favourites," he said.

"They definitely weren't as strong as they were at the world championships or at the Olympics.

"Burnett had a very good race in the relay and also the 200m freestyle. That was an amazing time."

The time wouldn't have been a surprise for the English team with Burnett having won silver in the 200m and only clipping 0.11s off his best time tonight.

But what would have irked Thorpe was Australia's men having failed to win a gold medal with only two nights to go.

The national men's team has never finished an entire Commonwealth Games campaign in the pool without a gold medal.

It is sorely missing the influence of Thorpe and Grant Hackett.

Burnett suggested Australia hadn't dealt with the high expectations of the home crowd as well as it could have.

"I think the Aussies came here with a lot of pressure on themselves," he said.

Travis Nederpelt was Australia's only men's medal winner with a bronze in the 400m individual medley behind Scotland's David Carry.

Jess Schipper produced the host nation's lone triumph on Sunday in the 100m butterfly, leading home an expected Australian 1-2 ahead of Libby Lenton.

The world champion reinforced her status as the world's pre-eminent female butterflier by powering to her first Commonwealth Games gold medal.

The 19-year-old Queenslander (57.48) charged out in the two-lap event and held off the challenge of compatriot Libby Lenton (57.80).

The unassuming world champion has always been a little embarrassed by comparisons to her childhood idols, Susie O'Neill and Petria Thomas.

However she said she coveted the title of Madame Butterfly.

"I have always wanted to be one of the madam butterflies," she said.

"I think I'm doing all right claiming my title."

Lenton conceded that Schipper owned the two-lap event.

"I never expected to win over Jess," she said.

"She's got a dominant force over the 100 at the moment."

Rebecca Cooke (8:29.50) completed a memorable night for England by defending her 800m title, keeping Australia's Melissa Gorman (8:30.79) at bay in the last event of the night.

It was an encouraging performance by Gorman as Australia was searching for a distance swimmer to step up in the women's division.

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