SPORTS

Thorpe unlikely to go for Spitz record

SYDNEY (AP) – Ian Thorpe said yesterday it’s unlikely he will attempt to chase seven gold medals in the pool at the Athens Olympics in August. Australia’s former national head swimming coach Don Talbot has urged the 21-year-old Thorpe, a triple world recordholder, to try to equal American Mark Spitz’s seven gold medals at one Olympics. But Thorpe said he will focus on his freestyle events. He appears to be leaning against trying to qualify in the 200-meter individual medley when the Olympic trials are held in Sydney in late March. «I doubt I’ll be swimming seven [in Athens], I really do. I’m concentrating on my freestyle events – the 100, 200 and 400 (meters) freestyle,» Thorpe said yesterday. «I’m almost finalized that they are probably the only events that I’ll be doing and the only consideration into another one will have to be a decision that is made in the next couple of weeks before the Olympic trials,» he added. Thorpe would need to add the 200 individual medley to his three individual freestyle races as well as three team relays in Athens to have a chance to match Spitz’s total. Coach Tracey Menzies has expressed concern about Thorpe having to swim the 100-meter freestyle final, then the 200-meter individual medley semifinal only minutes later during the eight-day program. Thorpe has competed in seven events at most major meets since the 2000 Sydney Olympics. He won silver in the 200 medley behind American world recordholder Michael Phelps at last year’s Barcelona world titles in his first attempt in the event at a major international meet. Thorpe won three golds at Barcelona. Phelps, who has talked of possibly doing eight events in Athens, has been offered a $1 million bonus by his sponsor if he can match Spitz’s record from the 1972 Munich Olympics. The American already holds world records in the 200-meter butterfly and the 200 and 400 individual medley. At Barcelona, Phelps broke five world records, including two marks in two different strokes on the same day, and won four gold medals and two silver medals. Thorpe’s comments yesterday came at a marketing deal announced with an Australian natural foods company which will include the launch of three «Thorpedo» brand fruit or soya drinks in Japan and Australia this year and in China by early 2005. The company said it expects «Thorpedo» sales would hit nearly $40 million annually within three years. Thorpe is popular in Japan and has acted as a government-endorsed Australian tourism ambassador.