|Rediff India Abroad Home | All the sections|
Australia mourns Thorpe's disqualification
March 28, 2004 17:18 IST
"He's sunk," Melbourne's Sunday Herald Sun newspaper declared on its front page following Ian Thorpe's shock disqualification from the 400 metres freestyle at the Olympic trials.
Olympic champion and world record holder Thorpe fell into the water before the start of his 400 metres freestyle at the trials and was ruled out of Saturday's race in Sydney, and the Athens Games in August.
Australia's Prime Minister John Howard led the national outpouring of grief.
"I think it's a tragedy that arguably one of the greatest swimmers this country has produced is not going to be performing for his country in his prime event," Howard told Australian television on Sunday.
Swimmers and politicians called for a rule change to allow Thorpe to shoot for Olympic history by trying to win the 400 metres at three successive Games.
Thorpe's disqualification was upheld by Australian Swimming (AS) on Saturday despite two appeals by the 21-year-old.
"But that ultimately is a matter for the swimming body. They have to take into account any retaliatory measures that might by meted out internationally," Howard added.
"I respect the independence of the swimming association and the Olympic body and I'll bet they're trying to find, you know, an honourable way of handling what is atrocious bad luck and a real tragedy for the country."
Top-selling Melbourne tabloid the Sunday Herald Sun devoted three of its first five pages and another two pages in its sports section to the story.
Federal Sports Minister Rod Kemp was quoted as saying in the newspaper: "I hope swimming can find a way to resolve this matter so the world would get to see the greatest 400 metres freestyle swimmer in action."
Federal Opposition Leader Mark Latham added: "Surely Australia has got to put its best team forward."
Former Australia Olympic champions Dawn Fraser and Kieren Perkins and AS officials dismissed calls for the tough rule to be changed.
"It must be gut-wrenching for him but the Olympics is bigger than one person," Perkins said.
However, triple gold medallist at the 1972 Munich Games Shane Gould told reporters: "Sure he was disqualified tonight, but that shouldn't rule him out of the Games".
AS president John Devitt told reporters: "We're extremely disappointed for Ian but he still has the opportunity to represent Australia in his other events (100, 200 and relays)."
Thorpe was considered a certain gold medallist. He has not lost over 400 metres since 1997, winning at the 1998 Perth world championships at the age of 15.
Melbourne's Sunday Age newspaper ran a front page heading "Gold going, going, gone", showing the black-suited Thorpe tumbling into the Sydney Olympic pool.
"No there's not (a way around it). It's a tragedy. It's a tough call but he did the wrong thing, unfortunately," AS media manager Ian Hanson said on Australian Broadcasting Corp Radio on Sunday.
"It was the most bizarre thing which I think any of us have ever seen in a swimming pool. He's going to miss a crack at history."