SYDNEY, May 3 – Australia's five-time Olympic champion Ian Thorpe is preparing for a comeback in a bid to win relay gold at the 2012 London Olympics, reports said on Monday.Thorpe, who retired from the sport in November 2006, is understood to be eyeing an Australian team spot in the men’s 4×100 metres freestyle relay, the Daily Telegraph said.
The newspaper said Thorpe, 27, discussed his plans with Australia’s leading sprinters at the Commonwealth Games trials here last March with a view to winning the sprint relay in London.
Thorpe’s manager Dave Flaskas has confirmed his client was in "fantastic shape" and did miss the camaraderie of competition.
"I guess it’s one of those ‘never say never’ situations," Flaskas told the newspaper.
"Nothing is impossible but as far as I’m aware there is nothing startling planned for the immediate future. His diary is pretty jammed and he hasn’t discussed anything with me."
He said Thorpe was in good shape, had lost weight and was swimming.
"It would make a great story. It would be a hell of a race. I think the London Olympic organisers would love to see it."
His former coach, Tracey Menzies, said Thorpe had not spoken to her about any comeback plans but she backed him if he did make a return.
"I think he’s an athlete and if he puts his mind to something he can achieve that goal, if this is the goal he wants to achieve at the end of his career he will definitely do it," Menzies told television.
A return to swimming would also trigger new endorsements for Thorpe, who has admitted he has struggled financially since quitting the pool, the Telegraph said.
Thorpe said last February he was suffering serious cashflow problems after shedding lucrative sponsorship deals to focus on his double university degree in linguistics and psychology.
For Thorpe to be eligible to compete at the Australian trials for the London Olympics in March 2012, he would have to announce his return to the swimming world’s governing body FINA within the next 18 months, the paper said.
Thorpe has made no secret of his disappointment at ending his career on an underwhelming note when illness and injury scuttled his Melbourne Commonwealth Games plans in 2006.
Thorpe admitted over the weekend that the experience had left him devastated.
"I felt that my soul had been ripped out," Thorpe said at the SportAccord International Convention in Dubai on Saturday.
"I’ve walked away… not retired," Thorpe said. "The only thing I really miss is that strange feeling I used to have in the marshalling rooms before big races.
"The anxiety was always so intense. It wasn’t a nice feeling but I miss it badly."
Thorpe held 11 world titles and set 13 long-course records before announcing his retirement from swimming in November 2006 after 10 years on the Australian team, saying he had lost the desire to compete.