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23 Jul 2008 10:45
Retired Australian swimming great Ian Thorpe on Wednesday dismissed American Michael Phelps’s bid to best Mark Spitz’s record haul of seven gold medals at an Olympic Games.
Phelps has set his sights on bettering Spitz’s historic 1972 tally, insisting those who say eight golds at a single Games are impossible are wrong.
But Thorpe, Australia’s greatest Olympian with five swimming golds from two Games, said he still believed it could not be done, even by Phelps.
“I have said I don’t think he will win eight gold medals,” Thorpe told Fox Sports News. “I don’t think he will.
“But mind you, if there is any person on the planet who is capable, it is him.
It’s sad, but I just don’t think it will happen.”
Thorpe said Phelps was no longer dominant in events such as the individual medley (IM).
“You’ve got to look at each of his individual races; he’s up against incredible competition at the moment,” he said.
“Even some of his events that he has always been stronger in or had distance on his competitors, like the 200m IM, that distance isn’t there any more.
“It’s going to be really tough.
Thorpe made similar comments in 2003, which Phelps reportedly said he used for motivation the following year in Athens.
The American came close to Spitz’s benchmark in 2004, when he won six golds.
Phelps will swim the same events in Beijing that he tackled in Athens: the 200m and 400m individual medleys, the 100m and 200m butterflies, the 200m freestyle, and likely the three relays.
Despite Thorpe’s doubts, Grant Hackett’s coach, Ian Pope, believes Phelps can equal Spitz’s achievement.
“I believe he will match Spitz’s record,” he told reporters in Singapore where Hackett is training for his attempt to win a record third consecutive Olympic 1 500m gold medal in Beijing.
“He’s the greatest swimmer I have ever seen,” said Pope.
“He’s got the whole package. He’s good mentally, he’s technically so much better than the rest of the world. He’s simply brilliant.”
Thorpe had no doubts about his compatriot Hackett’s chances of claiming another 1 500m gold.
“He is looking good at the moment,” he said.
“If Grant is anywhere near his best in that event, he will win that race. Period.”—Sapa-AFP
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