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Commonwealth Games: Geoff Huegill's remarkable comeback

Ian Thorpe (left) with Geoff Huegill
Thorpe (left) and Huegill won Commonwealth 4x100m medley relay gold in 2002

Australian swimmer Geoff Huegill completes a remarkable comeback at the 2010 Commonwealth Games.

Huegill, now 31, left swimming behind after the 2004 Athens Olympics, ballooned in weight, then lost more than seven stone in order to compete once more in Delhi.

Australian swimming legend Ian Thorpe, Huegill's friend and Athens team-mate, tells the story.

Ian Thorpe
By Ian Thorpe
Five-time Olympic gold medallist for Australia

Scottish swimmer Hannah Miley weighs 49kg (7st 10lb). So my friend Geoff Huegill lost one Hannah Miley to compete in Delhi.

That is extraordinary over a couple of years. If you can bottle that, you've got a very successful weight-loss programme.

Geoff Huegill
Huegill had weighed almost 22 stone at his heaviest

We competed together in Athens, but I hadn't seen him for months until I saw him at what was probably his heaviest (138kg, approaching 22st).

It was one of those uncomfortable moments. Everyone knows he's put on a lot of weight. You don't really want to say it but you know he has, and he knows you know.

He went away for a while after that. People didn't see him for some time and, for a little bit, I don't think he knew what to do. But he worked out what it was going to be, and he'd already started when he let people know.

There was a point where we had a chat about what he was doing, and when he told me I was pleased to hear not just that he was doing something about it, but more the way he was doing it. It was exciting.

He suffered a lot of jabs and jeers from the media when he put on the weight but, when he decided to do something about it, he had a lot of support. Initially, people were asking 'how are you going to do that?' but he came through it.

When he started to look somewhat fit again, I remember thinking, 'Wow'. But then, like most people who struggle with that last bit of weight they want to lose, it was a long process for him to get all the way down to race weight again.

Geoff is back in the pool for all the right reasons - wanting to be healthy, wanting to be a role model

And he is now a completely different athlete to the one he was. He is a much better person, he has got his head together. He's also a more complete athlete now.

He knows what he wants to do, and why he's doing it. He's getting back in the pool for all the right reasons - wanting to be healthy, wanting to be a role model.

It may not be on the same scale, but I know how it feels to take time off and come back. Throughout my career I took time off - I needed it, I needed time for myself.

After Sydney 2000 I took three months off, came back, and had an incredibly successful year. Then, after Athens 2004, I took six months off and spent the following six months part-training. I needed a full year away.

I was back, and fit, and as healthy as I'd ever been, but I decided to walk away from the sport.

I had accomplished everything I ever wanted to achieve in swimming when I was 17. I fast-tracked my career. I realised there were other things I wanted to do.

Geoff has achieved a lot in his career, but the premise for why he is coming back is completely different. He is doing it for himself, and for the role he can play in inspiring others. He realises there are a lot of people behind him.

Regardless of what he does in the pool, this is a success story. Period.

Ian Thorpe was talking to BBC Sport's Ollie Williams.

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see also
Commonwealth Games 2010: Form guide - swimming
29 Sep 10 |  Commonwealth Games
England and Scotland strike gold
05 Oct 10 |  Commonwealth Games
Huegill makes it a double
03 Aug 02 |  Swimming
Huegill powers to victory
01 Aug 02 |  Swimming
Thorpe claims super six
28 Jul 01 |  Other Sports

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