Ian Thorpe has always intrigued us. A giant of a man not just in stature but in how much he has achieved starting at the tender age of fourteen. As an athlete and role model, he has not put a foot wrong and in today’s world with all its vices and temptations to young athletes, that is no mean feat. He is a rare breed.
I was really looking forward to learning more about the man as I sat down to watch Ian Thorpe: The Swimmer last night on the ABC, directed by filmmakers Gregor Jordon and Simone Kessel. I knew nothing about Ian Thorpe until I arrived in Australia in September 2000 but during that Olympic week, his name was everywhere. Of course the rest is history with Ian taking home a swag of gold medals and setting numerous world records.
The Swimmer looks at Ian’s attempt to qualify for London 2012 over a two year period. His renewed desire to compete brought him out of retirement, five years after hanging up his swim cap.
Ian Thorpe has always been a private person and growing up in the full glare of the media has made him guarded. Interestingly it was Ian’s idea to document his attempted Olympic comeback and I wondered how he had come to that decision, given his discomfort in the media spotlight. Was it because he never expected to fail?
One thing Ian Thorpe has never lacked is courage. It takes courage to publicly voice your intent and your hopes. It takes even more courage to try and then to fall short in front of an expectant nation. It takes courage to hold it together when a microphone is shoved in front of your face the moment you step out of the pool. I admire Ian Thorpe for his courage and as an example to kids the world over, that it’s better to try and sometimes fail, than to never try at all. Peoples lives are full of regret for all the things they wish they’d had the courage to do. The reality is that we learn more about ourselves from our failures than we do from our successes and there is no shame in not winning, or in coming second or third or fourth. Perhaps the experience of failure is something that Ian has rarely had to face. After all elite athletes are indoctrinated to only focus on winning.
He seemed uncomfortable at different points in the documentary when he was being questioned by the Director. We really learned very little else about him not related to his sport. I’d like to have seen him relaxing and laughing with friends and family but there was none of that in the film, or only one scene. Ian’s own admission that he can go for months without speaking to people did not really surprise me.
What he needs more than anything else in this world is a soulmate. It would completely change his world. There is someone out there for all of us.
Ian Thorpe is an accomplished athlete, a gentleman and an Australian of whom we can all be proud. He has achieved more in his young life than many of us could hope to in our lifetimes. Best of all, he still has so much more to offer and I look forward to his future successes whether in or out of the pool.