Commonwealth Games 2002
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Swimming Tuesday, 30 July, 2002, 14:45 GMT 15:45 UK
Aussies hail the 'Thorpedo'
Australian fans  enjoy the 2002 Games
Australian fans enjoy the 2002 Games

When Ian Thorpe entered the Manchester Aquatics Centre for his first appearance at the Commonwealth Games, the cheer from the sell-out crowd almost blew him into the swimming pool.

The Australian has already been tagged as a "great" by many - and it would be hard to argue against such a title.

At the last Commonwealths, when he was just 15, Thorpe picked up five gold medals.

Two years later at the Sydney Olympics, he delighted the home support by winning three golds and two silvers.

Now in 2002, "Thorpedo" is set to wow the swimming world yet again by attempting to win seven gold medals.

Can he do it? Many of his fans from Australia seem to think so.

Higgins compares Thorpe to Warne
Higgins compares Thorpe to Warne
"He's seen as a God back home. He's the Shane Warne of swimming," said Andrew Higgins from Brisbane.

"He's also world superstar because he's recognised in places like Japan and America, where our cricketers and rugby stars aren't."

The multi world-record holder has endeared himself to his home nation both in and away from the pool since he first made an impact at the 1998 World Championships.

He is regularly involved in charity work, donating Aus$25,000 to children's cancer research and a youth crisis prevention programme in 1999.

"Thorpe's awesome. He's very down to earth and very likeable. I think if anybody's capable of winning seven golds then he can," said Simon Curtis from Melbourne.

"There might be another like him, but I think it's unlikely."

Alex Halspin from Melbourne added: "Thorpey's my hero. I swim myself and wouldn't mind becoming like him. His advantage is his great physique and strength and he's got big feet."

To be precise, his "big" feet are size 17.

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