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Commonwealth Games 2002
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Swimming Wednesday, 5 June, 2002, 17:14 GMT 18:14 UK
Harris holds back the years
Martin Harris in action for Great Britain
Harris will be the veteran of the English team
When Martin Harris picked up his Commonwealth Games gold medal for the 100m backstroke, swimming sensation Ian Thorpe was gearing up for his 12th birthday party.

At 33, Harris is older and wiser and, following Thorpe's inclusion in his old preferred event, the elder statesman of the English team has opted to give it a miss.

He revealed to BBC Sport Online: "Ian Thorpe's doing the 100m and there's no way I'm going up against him. I'd have to have foot extensions (in reference to Thorpe's flipper-like size 17 feet)."

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I didn't really want to make the Games as that meant another 12 hard weeks of training
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Martin Harris

Instead, Harris, in is final flourish against the world's best, aims to upset his younger rivals in the 50m, an event Thorpe has decided to leave for someone else to win.

Despite having a medal chance, the swimmer from Tower Hamlet, in London, insists he does not really want to be at the Games.

"I thought I'd do the Commonwealth trials and see how I got on," he said. "I didn't really want to make the Games as that meant another 12 hard weeks of training."

The pool looked to have finally said goodbye to Harris back in 2000 when he failed to qualify for the British Olympic team.

He packed it in, packed his bags and travelled around the world for a year with his girlfriend, taking in Hong Kong, South America and Australasia.

"I felt fed up with swimming," he confessed. "I'd been training properly since the age of 15 and I'd had enough."

Added to that, his father, who is also his coach, had to undergo a triple heart bypass. He recovered and became known as the "bionic man" by his son.

But the year away and his focus on jobs aside from swimming - he is a personal trainer and an IT consultant - seem to have held Harris in good stead.

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I've got the poolside Zimmer frame at the moment and, when I back down after the Games, I'll pass it on to Mark
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Harris' warning to Mark Foster

"I was out in New Zealand when I decided to do a bit of Masters competition (swimming's answer to the senior tour)," he added.

"I did some good times, enjoyed the lighter training and thought I'd give the trials a go."

As it happened, he subsequently finished equal first in the 50m backstroke with English team-mate Adam Ruckwood.

And, suddenly age seems no barrier.

"I feel like I'm 21," he warned. "I feel in great shape and, if I can get it all right in Manchester, who knows."

One swimmer he hopes to keep him company during the Games is another of England's elder statesman, freestyler Mark Foster.

Foster, Harris believes, still has another full season in him.

And the 33-year-old joked: "I've got the poolside Zimmer frame at the moment and, when I back down after the Games, I'll pass it on to Mark."

But, then what for Harris?

"I can see myself moving out to New Zealand," he said, "and not doing too much strenuous swimming."

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Martin Harris
"I'm just pleased to be back"
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See also:

05 Jun 02 | Swimming
05 Jun 02 | Swimming
05 Jun 02 | Swimming
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