Source: The Weekend Australian, 31 March, 2001, p.49


Thorpe has more in store: Frost

 

Ian Thorpe will only get better

with age, Nicole Jeffery reports

IAN THORPE's size-17 feet may
be the least remarkable thing
about him. In one extraordinary
week in Hobart, he has
demonstrated he is a super athlete
in every way. He is big, strong,
fast, durable, smart, disciplined,
composed, courageous. And he is
still growing.
	His coach Doug Frost made a
statement this week which
should truly horrify the world's
best freestyle swimmers.
	Ian Thorpe, triple Olympic
gold medallist, world
recordholder in the 200m, 400m
and 800m freestyle and the new
national 100m freestyle
champion, is still a long way
from being a mature athlete.
	He is already the first man in
40 years to swim at world-class
level from 100m to 800m, the
equivalent of a runner who can
beat both Michael Johnson and
Hicham El Guerrouj, but there is
more to come.
	Frost believes 18-year-old
Thorpe will continue to develop
physically and mentally for five
or six years.
	"I would think Ian has another
six years of developing and
improving, at least," he said
after Thorpe had demolished the
world 20Om freestyle record.
"He's going to get stronger and
faster, that's why we need to
persevere in the 100m."
	Frost recalled that Dutchman
Pieter van den Hoogenband, who
defeated Thorpe for the 200m
freestyle gold medal at the
Olympics, was 22 in Sydney.
When the Dutch sprinter was
Thorpe's age, at the Atlanta
Games, he finished fourth in the
100m and 200m freestyle. Four
years later he was king of the
pool.
	The implication is that Thorpe
will be an infinitely better
swimmer by the Athens
Olympics.
	That is just a natural part of
growing up, said Frost, who
bristles at any suggestion his
swimmer is a freak talent.
	"He's not a freak, he's just an
exceptionally outstanding
athlete and person," Frost said.
	"It might be frightening but
it's not freakish"
	Yet it is hard to comprehend
just how much bigger, stronger
and faster Thorpe can get.
	He is already the biggest man
in swimming at 100kg.
Others, like great Russian
sprinter Alex Popov, are
taller (200cm to Thorpe's
195cm) but Popov weighs in
at a skinny 90kg, while van
den Hoogenband is a mere 73kg.
	The conventional wisdom is
that a man of 100kg is dragging
too much weight through the
water for world-class swimming, 
particularly over distances 
greater than 200m but that was
BT (Before Thorpe). 
      The young man from Syd-
ney's southern suburbs has 
single-handedly changed the 
rules of swimming. He has 
shown a unique ability to har-
ness such size and strength.
	In the past three years he has
packed 10kg of muscle onto his
195cm frame and has swum ever
faster. Frost predicts he will go
through yet another growth
spurt, emerging taller and
heavier before he reaches his
physical peak. But that power
requires control It is the
exceptional efficiency of his
freestyle technique which creates
such an awesome blend of speed
and endurance.
	In this week's 800m final
where he and Olympic 1500m
champion Grant Hackett bettered
Kieren Perkins' world record
they were swimming side by side
at the same speed through aU but
the last 100m.

Yet Hackett took 38 strokes for
every minute, compared with
Thorpe's 33 strokes at a stroke
length of almost three metres.
Hackett was expending much
more energy for the same result
and that showed in the last 100m
as Thorpe unleashed the power he
had stored through the first half
of the race.
	Until the last few laps he was
barely using his legs, which are
commonly regarded as his
greatest weapon.
	There is a fine balance in
swimming between the pull and
the kick. Thorpe's kick is
awesome, other swimmers have
reported being thrown about in
his wake, but Frost argues he is
not leg-dominated
	"He's got such a wonderful
balance to his stroke. He is a
much better than average kicker
but he's very strong in the upper
body."
	The other crucial component of
Thorpe's technique is his
exceptional flexibility. Frost
said Thorpe was extremely
supple, even as an eight-year-
old, and they have worked hard to
retain that flexibility while his
muscles have developed.
	His training regime includes a
substantial stretching program
which most recently has
incorporated yoga exercises.
	The widely-held opinion
among Australia's
swimming fraternity is that
Thorpe can now swim any
distance he likes, from 100m
to 1500m.
	Perkins would like to see
Thorpe try for his 1500m
world record but if he takes
the challenge he will have
to do it soon.
	Frost believes as Thorpe grows
he will continue to gain power
but that will eventually
undermine his endurance and 
even his signature event, the 
400m, may suffer.
   That is why the coach has
predicted he will eventually
become the world's best 100m 
swimmer.
   Whichever way he goes,
Thorpe is going to be the big 
man in swimming for years to 
come.


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