Australian swimming great Ian Thorpe's hotly anticipated return from five years on the sidelines ended in a disappointing second-last place yesterday, tempering hopes he can reach next year's Olympics.
Thorpe, 29, swimming the unaccustomed 100m individual medley at a low-key World Cup short-course event in Singapore, was off the pace after the first 25m and he ended seventh, more than three seconds adrift of winner Chad le Clos.
The five-time Olympic champion, whose comeback has sparked anticipation of a mouth-watering London 2012 match-up with American superstar Michael Phelps, glared at the scoreboard before smiling and shaking hands with a competitor. "I was doing really well -- and then the breaststroke happened," said Thorpe, referring to the medley's third leg.
"It wasn't so bad this morning. It wasn't too bad -- I'm not embarrassed," said Thorpe, who will also compete in Beijing and Tokyo. "I'm still smiling. Test me when I get to Japan, I may not be."