10-time Commonwealth Games gold medallist Ian Thorpe AM has been elevated to Legend status in the Sport Australia Hall of Fame cementing his place as an Australian sport icon.
After bursting from the starting blocks at the Kuala Lumpur 1998 Commonwealth Games en route to winning four gold medals as a 15-year-old, after already claiming world championship gold in Perth earlier that year, Australian sports fans had an inkling they were witnessing the breakthrough of a legend.
Decades later, the legendary career of 10-time Commonwealth Games gold medallist Ian Thorpe AM is now official after he was elevated to a Legend of Australian Sport by the Sport Australia Hall of Fame.
‘Thorpey’ becomes the 13th Commonwealth Games Australia alumni to take their place as a Legend in the Sport Australia Hall of Fame.
He joins athletics legends Raelene Boyle AM MBE, Betty Cuthbert AC MBE, Herb Elliot AC MBE, Cathy Freeman OAM, Marjorie Jackson-Nelson AC CVO MBE, John Landy AC CVO MBE, Louise Sauvage OAM, Shirley Strickland AO MBE, cycling legend Edgar ‘Dunc’ Gray, and fellow swimming legends Dawn Fraser AC MBE, Susie O’Neill AM and Murray Rose AM in the exclusive club of just 44 Australian sportspeople who have been bestowed Australia’s greatest sporting honour.
Thorpe was joined in the 2021 class by Australian cricket legend Dennis Lillee.
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It wasn’t hyperbole when famed Australian swimming coach Don Talbot called it “genetics gone bloody crazy” when describing Thorpe at the Kuala Lumpur Games.
Few other words could aptly describe the arrival of the 15-year-old Sydney schoolboy who dominated the men’s swimming at the 1998 Commonwealth Games despite being two years younger than any other member of the Australian team.
After four gold medals, Talbot declared that the 6ft 5in with size 17 feet Thorpe “may be the swimmer of the century”.
A year before Kuala Lumpur at the age of 14, Thorpe had become the youngest ever male to represent Australia in swimming and was the youngest ever individual world champion at the titles in Perth
Thorpe’s first gold medal of the 1998 Commonwealth Games came in the 200m freestyle, where he won in a time of 1min 46.70sec, just one-hundredth of a second outside of Italian Giorgio Lamberti’s world record.
Thorpe’s second and third gold medals came in the 4x200m freestyle relay and 4x100m freestyle relay respectively. His fourth gold came in the 400m freestyle, winning in a time of 3:44.35, setting another personal best.
It was the beginning of the ‘Thorpedo’ era as Thorpe quickly became the golden boy of swimming in the lead up to the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.
A Games which saw him win five medals, including three gold, to become one of the best swimmers in history.
His performance at the Manchester 2002 Commonwealth Games, added another chapter to the story.
The then 19-year-old came into the Manchester Games at the peak of his powers.
Thorpe had added five kilograms of muscle to his frame, after a regime of heavy weight training in the lead up to the Games, in the hope that the extra bulk will give extra speed, for his seven-event program.
Already known for being the world’s best freestyler, Thorpe had qualified for the 100m backstroke event showcasing his immense talents, aiming to come away with seven gold medals for the meet.
While he didn’t come away with the seven golds, his freestyle events saw him come home from England with six gold medals, whilst in the backstrokehe finished with silver, behind then reigning Olympic silver medallist and teammate Matt Welsh OAM.
Thorpe’s six golds remain tied with fellow legend Susie O’Neill as the most gold medals by an Australian at the single Commonwealth Games.
His seven-medal haul remains tied for second-most in Australian history, behind O’Neill’s eight medals at the Kuala Lumpur Games and fellow swimmer Emily Seebohm’s eight medals at the Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games.
In nine years of competitive swimming at every distance from 100m to 800m, Thorpe won five Olympic gold medals, 10 Commonwealth golds, 13 world championships and set 23 world records, making him one of Australia’s most successful athletes of all time.
Thorpe’s work out of the pool gave him a voice on numerous social issues as he used his profile to raise awareness on depression and equality among other endeavours post his epic swimming career.
“It’s an honour and a privilege to be part of a group of people who have shaped the Australian sporting and cultural identity around the world,” Thorpe said.
“To be amongst that group of legends who have been there before is a wonderful thing and hopefully this inspires more people to be able to move into that status as well.”
Sport Australia Hall of Fame chair John Bertrand said Thorpe and Lillee’s sporting feats were extraordinary.
“The recognition of Legend status provides the opportunity to share their extraordinary story and inspire a whole new generation of Australians,” said Bertrand, also a SAHOF Legend.
The Sport Australia Hall of Fame inductions for 2021 include four Commonwealth Games champions who take their place in the nation’s most prestigious sports club.
COMMONWEALTH GAMES CHAMPIONS HONOURED WITH SPORT AUSTRALIA HALL OF FAME INDUCTIONS
Four Commonwealth Games gold medallists are among the new inductees into the nation’s most prestigious sporting club, the Sport Australia Hall of Fame.READ MORE