He opened up about the Tokyo Summer Olympic Games getting postponed to next year, and he firmly believed that it was the correct decision. “Due to the severity of the pandemic, postponing the Olympic Games was the only option,” he said. “The Olympic Games bring the world together and at this time, global togetherness is about being apart.”
When he competed professionally, Thorpe won nine Olympic medals for Australia, five of which were gold. “A highlight for me was winning a medal on the first night of the Sydney Olympics. I was only 17 years old, and I had the pressure of the nation on my back at that time, and I had another race straight after it, where the Australian team beat the American team in the 4×100 meter freestyle relay race. That was a pretty big night for me to say the least,” he said.
His five Olympic gold medals is the greatest total of any Australian athlete.
On his motivations, he said, “Motivation is 50 percent starting something. The alarm goes off very early for training. You may be exhausted by as soon as you get out of bed, the chances of going back to bed are minimized because you already got up and started. Once you jumped in the shower, you know you will get there. The motivation when times are tough is looking at accomplishing your goals, and what the bigger picture is. In that situation, let all the hard work and training take you through all that.”
“I loved swimming due to the movement of water around me, especially at high speed,” he added.
Regarding the impact of technology on the sport of swimming, he said, “We had biomechanical analysis when I was swimming, so that hasn’t changed too much. The biggest difference I’ve noticed is being able to watch in real-time and getting all of the data analysis from that and being able to make modifications to what you are doing.”
For young and aspiring swimmers, he encouraged them to “work hard.” “I’ve met athletes that trained extremely hard that never got to the top and I’ve met athletes that are incredibly talented that never get to the top. It’s having talent and working hard with that, and being the best at what you do,” he said.
“It’s important to have balance and remember that sport is only a part of your life,” he said. “An athlete’s career is finite and it can end at any moment. You want to make sure that you have a plan B. It is also important to have fun with the sport.”
He listed the freestyle as his personal favorite, especially since it’s the fastest out of all of them. “When I swam freestyle at speed when I am at my best, you know the feeling when you catch a wave, and the wave takes over. Every stroke feels like that when I am at speed,” he said.
Thorpe, who has been affected by depression in his life, spoke about the importance of mental health. “Competitively, I was mentally strong in my approach when I looked at things, but I still have a mental health issue. With time, you get better at managing yourself. It’s something that I used to struggle with but I’ve learned what I need to do. I may still have depression but I don’t have a depressed person’s mindset,” he said.
He praised fellow Australian swimmer Mitch Larkin for his consistent growth as an athlete and his personality. “Mitch is a lovely guy,” he said.
Thorpe noted that the International Swimming League (ISL) is a “great initiative.” “I love it. I am pleased to see the top athletes from around the world embracing it,” he said. “The only thing I don’t understand is the spacesuits that they wear. I don’t get that,” he said, jokingly.
For his fans and supporters (all of which are in lockdown at the moment), he said, “I have fans from all around the world that continue to contact me and that’s amazing. I still travel around the world and people still remember me from the Olympic Games or my accomplishments of my medal count. It’s an exclusive club to be in and that’s a really cool thing.”