Ian Thorpe fails to qualify for London 2012 swim team

Saturday, March 17, 2012 | 10:27 p.m. CDT

ADELAIDE, Australia — Ian Thorpe has failed to qualify for the London Olympics in his comeback from retirement.

The five-time Olympic champion, nicknamed "The Thorpedo" didn't make it through the heats in the 100-meter freestyle Sunday morning at the Australian selection trials.

His time of 50:35 seconds ranked him 21st in the heats, in which the top 16 advanced to the semifinals. World champion James Magnussen led the qualifiers in 48:26.

"Thorpie has been someone I've always admired as a swimmer, so it is upsetting for him and the rest of us do feel his pain," Magnussen said. "It would have been great to have him there in London. It's disappointing that he's not going to be there, but all I can do now is focus on my race."

The 100 was a last-ditch attempt by Thorpe after earlier failing to reach the final of the 200 freestyle, which was considered his best chance of qualifying for London.

He held the world record in the 200 for eight years, and when he quit competitive swimming in 2006, he was the reigning 200 and 400 Olympic champion.

He returned to competition late last year. After posting a series of modest times in meets across Asia and Europe, Thorpe said he was concerned he hadn't given himself enough time to prepare.

Thorpe won his heat, the ninth of 12, in the 100 but was slow to leave the pool after looking at the scoreboard and seeing his time. He seemed to know that his time wasn't good enough to advance.

Thorpe needed to finish first or second in the 100 or 200 to earn individual selection for the London Olympics or place in the top six in either event to be considered for a selection as a relay swimmer.

Michael Klim, another veteran coming out of retirement, clocked 49:79 to qualify 11th for the semifinals.

Australian head coach Leigh Nugent seemed to cut off the option of selector discretion when he said Saturday the team would be based on performances and times.

Thorpe swam an impressive heat time in the 200 but failed to make the final after finishing 12th of the 16 semifinalists.

In his absence, 20-year-old Thomas Fraser-Holmes won the 200 in 1:46:88 on Saturday night ahead of Kenrick Monk (1:57:16).

Monk was cleared to represent Australia after avoiding criminal charges last year after lying to police about a skateboard accident.

After his disappointment, Thorpe said he planned to continue swimming for a couple of years.

Thorpe's return generated enormous exposure for the Australian Olympic trials, with the South Australian Aquatic and Leisure Centre at capacity for the night sessions which Thorpe was expected to compete in.

On Sunday morning, the venue announcer had to ask the crowd for quiet at the start of Thorpe's 100. The quiet lasted only until Thorpe hit the water, with a big crowd screaming and shouting encouragement for The Thorpedo.

Thorpe has a big following in Australia, having won five Olympic gold medals, 11 world championships and setting 13 world records after bursting onto the scene in 1999.

He was the most globally recognized swimmer until Michael Phelps emerged.

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