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Thorpe withdraws from Commonwealth Games

The star swimmer, a multiple Olympic and world championship gold medalist, has bronchitis and a viral infection.

india Updated: Mar 07, 2006 10:42 IST

Star swimmer Ian Thorpe will skip the Commonwealth Games due to illness.

Thorpe, a multiple Olympic and world championship gold medalist, has bronchitis and a viral infection.

"It is very frustrating, it is very disappointing that I cannot be part of the team competing in Melbourne," a tired looking Thorpe told a news conference on Tuesday.

The Commonwealth Games are due to start next Wednesday in Melbourne, Australia, and Thorpe was to be one of its biggest drawcards.

"I have struggled for the last three weeks to overcome my illness. It's been a very trying time, a difficult time," Thorpe said.

"It was difficult coming to terms with not being able to compete, but in the end it was the only decision I could come to— I would have done more damage than good if I had competed."

The Commonwealth Games had been scheduled as Thorpe's first major meet since the 2004 Athens Olympics. He skipped the world championships last year and took time out of competitive swimming. Thorpe said he didn't think he'd be up to the grade after his bout with illness.

"It wouldn't have been a good performance by me if I did compete ... I would have been of little, if any, benefit to the team," he said.

"I've had bronchitis ... and because I've been so run down I've picked up other things as well— I've never taken so many tablets before."

Thorpe said he planned to travel to Melbourne to support the Australian team.

Thorpe had been due to swim the 100-, 200- and 400-meter freestyle races in Melbourne. He was replaced by friend and training partner Craig Stevens.

"I am very grateful for this opportunity," Stevens said. Stevens was an interesting choice to replace Thorpe. Ahead of the Athens Olympics, Stevens gave up his place in the 400 freestyle to allow Thorpe to defend his title. Thorpe initially failed to gain selection after he was disqualified in a qualification race for a false start.

At the time, Thorpe was the world and Olympic champion and held the world record for the 400.

Stevens pulled out of the 400 for Athens, allowing Australia's Olympic selectors to restore Thorpe to the 400.

Thorpe won the 200 and 400 freestyle at Athens. Thorpe's decision was another devastating blow to the Australian Commonwealth Games team— earlier 1,500 Olympic champion Grant Hackett pulled out as he recovered from shoulder surgery. Thorpe has 10 Commonwealth Games gold medals, winning four at Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 1998 and six at the 2002 Manchester Games.

First Published: Mar 07, 2006 10:42 IST