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Saturday, 28 July, 2001, 13:35 GMT 14:35 UK
Is "Thorpedo" the finest?
Ian Thorpe has become the first swimmer to win six gold medals at a single world championships.
Does this make the "Thorpedo" the world's finest athlete?
At the age of 18, Ian Thorpe bestrides the sport of swimming like a colossus.
Thorpe's dominance is comparable with both Mark Spitz and Johnny Weismuller before him, as twelve individual world records in three years testify.
This year's six-star performance shows Thorpe is back to his best following the Sydney Olympics, where his three gold medals were considered a failure by some.
It is notoriously difficult to compare athletic prowess between sports, but it is clear the Aussie is up there with the best of them.
But is the "Thorpedo" the world's finest athlete?
Email us with your views.
In any other sport he would be a household name throughout the world and a multi-millionaire.
He dominates the sport so much, and always seems to have more in reserve if he needs it.
If he can show consistency over the next few years he could easily be considered the world's greatest athlete.
His performances to date have been remarkable. A proper assessment of of his achievements will be best viewed later in his career.
Ian Thorpe is not only the best swimmer in the world, he would surely have to be among the best athletes. Other 'great' athletes in the world could surely take a lesson on how this young man handles himself, with dignity and humility. He is a credit to himself, to swimming and to his country.
He is the world's greatest swimmer by a mile.
But it's too early to declare he is the greatest athlete.
Undoubtly, he is the best swimmer. The best athlete? Well, to some extent he deserves the title. He swims in the 100m, 200m, 400m and 800m events, traditionally a very rare combination. And please be aware that Ian is just 18. In swimming, as far as the men are concerned, it's very rare to have a great swimmer under 20.
Trying to compare Ian Thorpe to the dominant swimmers of past eras, and track and field athletes, is a difficult one. But what gives Thorpe a slight edge in superstardom over a track athlete is that he competes in 7 events while a track athlete only needs to concern him/herself with one or maybe 2 events (unless they compete in relays).
Certainly Thorpe is head and shoulders above Michael Johnson because Thorpe has already broken 12 world records in 3 years, while Johnson only broke the 200m and 400m world record once apiece over an entire career. Johnson's performances pale into insignificance compared to this young man.
It is a little far-fetched to claim he is the greatest athlete in the world when he is so young. Also, swimming has always been an event where people are likely to win more than one gold medal in a championship. If he's the best swimmer of the day it follows that he is going to win more than one event. If he can win in 4 Olympics in a row he might well deserve the title. Until then, he's just the best swimmer in the world, nothing more.
The world is his oyster. Probably the only athlete that will turn heads when he walks in the room.
Thorpe is far better than many of the athletes that are touted for greatness. But he is only 18 and is not done developing. That boggles the mind. Give him more time.
Here is a fearless prediction.Thorpe will end up holding not only the 200m/400m/800m freestyle world records, but the 100m and 1500m freestyle, PLUS the 200m and 400m Individual medley world record, PLUS the 200m Butterfly.There are rumours that he actually broke the 400m IM world record in training just a few weeks ago in his local pool in suburban Sydney. He is yet to swim this event at any major championships.
As an Aussie, one cannot be but enormously proud of this young man. In and out of the water he shows what a magnificent person he is. I think Aussies thank their lucky stars that he swims for this country and not another. He is most definitely the greatest.
If being the greatest is dominating your sport like no other - then perhaps it is a toss up between Thorpe and Tiger Woods. A statistical analysis comparing athletes across different sports would be interesting.
Ian Thorpe is the world's greatest swimmer without a doubt. He comes close to being the greatest athlete in the world, but only at this moment in time! In years to come he will become the greatest athlete ever! Even I, a die-hard England fan, can't help but smile when he wins because he has just got fantastic talent and ability!
With the level of competition now as compared to Spitz and Weismuller's eras, Thorpe is the best in the swimming world... no doubt about it.
In my opinion, he is the world's greatest swimmer, but world's greatest athlete will always be a hard one. But this guy is a freak of nature.
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