Inside The Mind Of A Tormented Olympic Hero

He’s Australia’s greatest Olympian, but now the crushed spirit of Ian Thorpe wonders what’s next…

‘The fairytale has turned into a nightmare’ said the swimming phenomenon as he struggled to find the words after finishing in 21st position for the 2012 Games this March, his dreams of making his third Olympic team, well and truly sunk.

More porpoise than shark, Thorpe, who famously quit the sport after wanting to see something other than “the black line along the bottom of the pool”, has consistently played down his Olympian chances during his ‘comeback’, keeping the expectations low, and refusing point blank to get the country’s hopes up. A good strategy that would have been better -had he applied it personally.

 “Utterly gutted and speechless. All the questions were there. Why did this happen? What is going on? I don’t know how I’ll handle it. I don’t know how I should feel.” He said.

It was clear from watching the anguished post race interview that while Thorpe wore his poker face best to convince the world’s media that his chances were low, he clearly never believed it himself. Not for a minute. Now he’s got plenty of time to figure out how he feels as his colleagues’ wing their way to London.

The International Man of Mystery known as a gentleman, a legend, dapper dude and a hero, is many things, but he is not in this case – the comeback kid.

Which makes me wonder: all that money, access to a crack team of sports psychologists, and if you can believe the rather large amount of cash sponsors threw at Thorpe to get him back out there – did no-one consider the damage if it all went pear shaped? And what do we have now? A broken spirit? Damage to Thorpe’s pride, his reputation, his bank account – rumoured to be drained…? 

Probably all of the above.

But when all is said and done, Thorpey will be OK because he’s a true-blue Aussie legend, and he’s got the weight of sport’s hardest hitting corporate giants behind him to pick him up and carry him towards the next goal. None of that will fall over because of events of the past two days. They’re still behind him all the way, hanging out for their Golden Goose to get back on track, C’mon Thorpe!

All well and good – for Thorpie.

My question is, and more importantly, what happens to the hundreds of other, lesser known, budding Olympian’s when it all goes pear shaped? Because you can bet your bottom dollar that they don’t have the big bucks to catch them when they fall. They don’t have the permanently ongoing crack management teams in place. These kids do it tougher than we mere mortals could ever dream. What happens when their dreams dissolve? Do they have the mental facilities to deal with it? What part does this play in their training and more importantly, who is there to pick up the pieces when they fall?

 

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