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September 11, 2000
Thorpe returns to his poolDerek Parr
Ian Thorpe returned to the scene of his most prolific world record breaking heroics on Monday, ready to swim faster than ever when the Olympic battles finally begin on Saturday.
The Australian team, who arrived on Sunday from a training camp in Melbourne, had their first Sydney work-out in the training pool next to the main competition pool in Homebush Bay where Thorpe has set six world records in the last 13 months. "I think every time he jumps in here, he probably feels like he owns it," coach Doug Frost said. "I hope he feels the same this time round."
Thorpe, a world champion at 15 and still a month short of his 18th birthday, is overwhelming favourite in the 200 and 400 metres freestyle and likely to collect more gold with Australia's 4x200 metres freestyle relay squad.
Frost said his swimmer's preparations for the Games had gone even better than his build-up to the Olympic trials in May when Thorpe lowered the 200 metres freestyle world record twice and the 400 metres once -- the same treble he achieved at last September's Pan Pacific championships at Homebush.
"Obviously he's going to be a little bit nervous and excited about it -- I hope he is. It's part and parcel," Frost said.
Thorpe was one of half a dozen Australian swimmers who underwent blood tests at the pool, a dope-testing process newly introduced for the Olympics and welcomed by Frost and head coach Don Talbot.
Thorpe has a busy programme on Saturday's opening day, featuring in Australia's 4x100 metres freestyle relay after the 400 metres.
"I think it's going to be great because if we get the result we want in the 400 metres, then I think he's going to be really up and it will lift the whole team," Frost said.
All Thorpe's events fall in the first half of the eight-day swimming programme. "It's all condensed. It's all in the first four days... so we've just got to nurse him through a little bit early on and try to keep him up for the rest," Frost said.
But there will be no complacency. "He knows that you've got to get it right. You've got to get everything right on the day and there have been a lot of times when the favourite's gone into an Olympics and hasn't been the eventual winner," Frost said.
Head coach Talbot said that Sunday, when they arrived from Melbourne, had been a tiring day for the team but the Olympic Village accommodation was the best in his long experience and everyone was healthy.
"We had a long day yesterday. You go through all the routine of getting into the Village, getting your accreditation and orientation," he said.
"It was pretty good and it was uplifting. But by the time we got to bed, I think everybody had well and truly had it. They slept like babies last night. A nice swim this morning has helped them a lot."
Australian and American swimmers have traded verbal blows in the run-up to the Games but Talbot had only compliments for his team's rivals.
"Yes, great team, USA. As I've said, they're number one team in the world. They're going to try to prove it if they can," he said. "We'll see in the pool. We're going to try and swim fast."
"We've had the best preparation that I've ever been associated with. We're happy with everything that's gone on today. It's been really good."
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