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Thorpey - a hero in more ways than one
on 6 November 2012
I remember watching Ian Thorpe on tv when he competed in the 1998 Commonwealth Games. Even then, aged 15, it was clear that this guy was something special. Two years later, I again sat glued in front of my tv as Ian, dressed in what would become the iconic black full body suit, dazzled people around the world with his phenomenal swimming technique and grace as he went on to win 3 Olympic gold medals. 4 years later in Athens, despite increased media scrutiny and a difficult time Olympic trials, he seemed to pick up from where he left off to win a further 2 Olympic golds, and become Austarlia's most successful ever Olympian.
If any of that info is a surprise to you, then you're really going to be taken aback by this book. Ian's accomplishments were and still are staggering, and he's definitely the best technical swimmer I have ever seen. He's like a merman; the way he moves through the water is poetry in motion. Fortunately, he tries to articulate this in the pages of 'This Is Me' to explain how he fell in love with the sport, and why he chose to come back.
However, it hasn't always been plain sailing for Ian. That was clear when he retired in 2006. It seemed too early, and yet sort of inevitable. He'd been worn down and I think he was physically and emotionally spent. In spite of his acheivements, many seemed to unfairly criticise him. I'm still not sure why this has been the case, as I personaly feel that he has always come across as a thoroughly genuine and sincere individual. I think some of it is tall-poppy syndrome, and I think a lot of people have sadly overlooked Ian's past triumphs and accolades by unfairly drawing comparisons between him and Michael Phelps. I don't feel that a comparison is right or fair, and I hope that this book will remind those that read it, or inform those who don't remember Ian's early career, of just how important he was for the sport.
What I didn't expect from 'This Is Me' was one of the later revelations in the book. I had no idea that Ian was battling personal demons, and had been from the very first moment I saw him swim on tv. As a young person who has battled similar issues, I could completely relate to the feelings that Ian describes in the latter stages of this book, and understand how difficult and , at times, embarrassing it feels to speak out. I have a new found respect for Ian - not simply as a swimmer, but as a human being.
If you didn't know anything about him prior to his BBC stint for the London 2012 games, you should prepare yourself for a lot of swimming talk in this book. (Seems obvious to say but I bet some of you will be surprised!) However, his descriptions are truly beautiful and emotive, enabling readers to connect with him, even if we can't relate directly to his experience of his sport. He's open and honest about his career and his views - from religion, to politics and other things beside. You get an idea of what makes him tick and it's very insightful. He's a truly remarkable man.
But more than that, you get a glimpse of just how much he's endured, and what he's still prepared to put himself through for one thing - his love of swimming. I for one am so glad that he's fallen in love with his sport again. I salute you, Thorpey!