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Last Update: Tuesday, November 21, 2006. 12:31pm AEDT
Thorpe announces retirement
Swimming superstar Ian Thorpe announced his retirement at a press conference in Sydney this lunchtime.
"As of 2:53 on Sunday afternoon I decided that I would not be swimming the world championships (next year)," the five-time Olympic gold medal winner said.
"I also made another very difficult decision - I decided that I was actually going to discontinue my professional swimming career."
Asked about a possible return to the pool he said: "I won't rule it out, I never rule anything out, but it's just not going to happen."
The world record holder said he wanted to take his life in a new direction after years of swimming "lap after lap staring at a black line".
"It was a tough decision but one that I am very pleased that I have made," he said.
"I have been working towards this decision for quite some time. I am 24 years old, and I am only just 24 as well, I am young enough to still see the new challenges and be able to accept them in my life."
Thorpe said he had first started to have serious doubts over his future while he was training in Los Angeles earlier this year.
"As I got physically fit [in LA] my mind also got fit and I started asking a lot of questions," he said
Thorpe described swimming as a "security net" and a "safety blanket" and said he felt he had not "balanced out" his life as well as he should.
"I realised I had to prioritise other things, and had let swimming take a little bit back seat at this stage," he said.
"It's a very difficult decision to make because swimming has provided that security.
"With that decision the first reaction was fear, but what also happened was I was excited at the prospect of other things being in my life.
"I'm looking at the next phase in my life, and that next phase means that I'm re-aligning what the most important thing is for me to do.
"Those important things I don't rank or order in a list, but swimming falls somewhere short. It's not up the top of that list, which has never happened before."
Thorpe has not competed internationally since the 2004 Athens Olympics.
He was scheduled to return to competition at this year's Commonwealth Games but dramatically announced that he was pulling out after being struck down with glandular fever.
He then went to Los Angeles for a lengthy training stay but was unable to return to full fitness because of the lingering effects of the glandular fever and returned to Australia last month.
Thorpe was Australia's most successful Olympian, winning nine Olympic medals including five golds. He retired as the 200 metres and 400m freestyle world record holder.
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