SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Ian Thorpe thinks he's a technically better swimmer now, in the early stages of his underwhelming comeback, than he was during the first phase of his stellar career.
Thorpe, who set 13 individual world records and won five Olympic gold medals before he quit competitive swimming in 2006, is making a comeback in a bid to qualify for next year's London Olympics.
He has not won any medals in World Cup meets in Singapore, Beijing and Tokyo, at times trailing well behind fellow competitors.
"I am not disappointed at all," Thorpe said in Seoul on Wednesday. "I expected when I first raced, it wouldn't be that fast. It's pretty natural for anyone who spent any time out of the pool. I would have liked to have swum a lot faster, but at the moment, it's not realistic."
The 29-year-old Australian said there'd been "incredible progression" in swimming while he was out of the sport.
"When I compare myself with how I used to swim 2005 or 2006, technically I am swimming better," Thorpe was quoted as saying by the Yonhap news agency. "I have to do a lot more training with that technique. I am not someone who focuses on trying to be No. 1. I focus on what I can do and focus on making sure my preparation is as good as possible."
Thorpe compared his comeback with trying to start a car after a long time in the garage.
"It doesn't matter how good the car is; it's still going to be difficult to start and I am experiencing this," Thorpe said. "There are some things I think I am better at, and some things I need to improve on. But most importantly, I've rediscovered love and passion for my sport. I don't think I can underestimate the value of that as I continue my preparation."