Thorpe's 400 disqualification complicates Phelps' planning

Australian's misfortune could force adjustments


March 28, 2004|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

Deliberations over the program Michael Phelps will swim at the 2004 Olympics weren't simplified yesterday when Ian Thorpe was disqualified from the 400-meter freestyle at Australia's Olympic trials.

Thorpe was considered a lock to repeat as gold medalist in the 400 free until he wobbled and fell off his block in his morning heat in Sydney.

Thorpe has history's nine fastest times, including the world record of 3 minutes, 40.08 seconds. Fellow Australian Grant Hackett is the only other man ever to break 3:43, and he won yesterday's trials final in 3:43.35.

Phelps set the American record, 3:46.73, last August and is viewed as a comer in the event, but he still may have to pass on the opportunity to challenge Hackett.

The only men's finals on Aug. 14, the first day of Olympic swimming in Athens, Greece, are the 400 individual medley and 400 freestyle, which will be contested within less than 27 minutes. Phelps is the world-record holder in the 400 IM, and he would have just 18 minutes of rest before the 400 freestyle, probably too little even for the most versatile swimmer in history.

Phelps is considering racing in an unprecedented five individual events at the Olympics. The 200 freestyle was one of his options, but that's the only other Olympic event in which Thorpe holds the world record. Now the Australian will be able to narrow his focus in an effort to repel a possible charge from the 18-year-old from the North Baltimore Aquatic Club.

Phelps next competes Friday, in the Counsilman Grand Prix Classic in Indianapolis.

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