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Thorpedo storms at punishing schedule

Yokohama: Australian swimmer Ian Thorpe has blamed a punishing schedule for setting rather modest goals at the Pan Pacific championships, which begin in Yokohama on Saturday.

“It’s been a very difficult preparation coming from the Commonwealth Games and then going back to Australia to train,” Thorpe said on Thursday. “I doubt whether or not I can improve on my times in Manchester or in the past.”

The world record holder for the 200, 400 and 800m freestyle even corrected one Japanese journalist who had asked him to predict which event he would set another world best in.

“I didn’t say I would swim ‘faster’ — just ‘really fast’. I will try to go as quick as possible, but it has been such a hectic year I guess some conditions are against us this time,” said Thorpe.

The Pan Pacific poster-boy, who won a record six gold medals at the world championships in Fukuoka last year, will swim the 100, 200 and 400m freestyle and three relays in Yokohama as “Thorpe-Mania” is poised to return to Japan.

Australian teammate Grant Hackett, who will contest the 100, 200, 400, 800 and 1,500m freestyle plus two relays, agreed that the log-jam of big events this year meant that fatigue could be a factor in Yokohama.

“We only had one and a half weeks back in Australia after Manchester and it’s been quite difficult to get back up to a level you want to compete at,” Hackett said. “I’m looking forward to a break after this. It would be nice to go out with a bang but there are no great expectations here.”

Thorpe made his sensational international debut five years ago in Japan.

“The experience of being here in Japan has been tremendous so far. I hope that continues for the swimming competition. I’ll go out there and I’ll put forward my best performances yet,” he said.

His greatest thrill came in 1998 when he clinched gold in the 400m and 4x200m relay at the world championships in Perth to cement his place as one of the world’s top swimmers.

He hopes to repeat last year’s excellent performances in Japan to excite his many fans here. “We had a very successful campaign at the world championships last year and for myself and the Australian team we hope to be able to continue that.

“It’s interesting, coming to Japan where I have popularity. The support helps me to be able to do my best performance here,” said Thorpe.

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