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Australian Olympic swimmer Ian Thorpe won the most gold medals of any Australian athlete, and was the youngest to win a world championship. He went on to win 10 more.
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Initially allergic to chlorine, Ian Thorpe overcame this to compete hard and win international honors in swimming by age 14. He went on to win 11 world championships and dominate the 2000 and 2004 Summer Olympic Games.
"When I started this, I wanted to get back in the pool, I wanted to race and I wanted to go to the Olympics. I still want to do all of those things."
"I'll go for broke. Swim faster. It's not going to be easy—this whole thing was never going to be easy."
"For myself, losing is not coming second. It's getting out of the water knowing you could have done better. For myself, I have won every race I've been in."
Ian James Thorpe was born on October 13, 1982, and grew up in Milperra, a suburb of Sydney, Australia. Both mother, Margaret, and father, Ken, were active in sports and encouraged Ian and his older sister, Christina, to pursue their interest in swimming. Ironically, Ian was allergic to chlorine when he was young. He later started swimming with his head out of the water, which eliminated the allergic reaction.
Ian Thorpe soon began competing in swim meets in Australia, winning nine gold medals at the New South Wales Short Course Age Championships in 1994. Thorpe was 6 feet tall when he started high school in 1995, and began to use his size to an advantage. He competed at the Australian Age Championships, winning bronze medals in the 200-meter and 400-meter freestyle events. He then won all 10 events at the New South Wales Age Championships in 1997. That same year, at the Pan Pacific Championship in Japan—his first international event—he finished second in the 400-meter freestyle, and set the fastest record for a 14 year-old.
In 1998, Thorpe won his first of 11 world championships, dominating the meet in the 200 and 400-meter freestyle events. In the 200-meter relay, he broke away from Olympic champion, American Tom Malchow, and by the end of his leg, the Australians were three seconds ahead of the Americans. In the 400-meter freestyle final, Thorpe closed in on teammate Grant Hackett's commanding lead and beat him in the final stroke, becoming the youngest to win a world championship.
Media attention followed, and Thorpe received multiple endorsement offers. He became a high-profile supporter of the Children's Cancer Institute, in honor of a close friend who suffered from lymphoma. In the 1999 Pan Pacific Championships in Sydney, Thorpe was pitted against teammate Grant Hackett and South African Ryk Meethling in the 400-meter freestyle. Halfway through the race, all three swimmers were bunched together when Thorpe opened it up and won, finishing a full two seconds ahead of the world record. He received a $25,000 reward for the world record, which he promptly donated to charity.
At the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia, Thorpe was under immense pressure to deliver multiple world records and several gold medals. He won Australia's first gold medal of the Games, in the 400-meter freestyle, setting a new world record. Later that night, he helped win the 4-by-100-meter freestyle relay. Though he broke the world record in the 200-meter freestyle in preliminary heats, he placed second to Dutch swimmer Pieter van den Hoogenband in the final. Thorpe returned the following night with a victory in the 4-by-200-meter freestyle relay. With three gold and two silver medals, Thorpe was the most successful athlete of the 2000 Olympic Games.
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