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1 day to Rio: The greatest Australian Olympian

Ian Thorpe: Australia's greatest Olympian. (Image: Wikimedia Commons/xiaming CC BY-SA 2.0)
4th August, 2016
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We’re finally here: one day until the Rio opening ceremony. We started our countdown with Australia’s first ever Olympian, Edwin Flack. Today we finish with our country’s most successful, Ian Thorpe.

No Aussie has ever matched Ian Thorpe’s five golds, and only one – fellow swimmer Liesel Jones – can match his nine total medals.

Thorpe burst onto the scene when, at age 15, he became the youngest world champion in history in 1998 and followed it up a year later by breaking four world records in as many days at the Pan Pacifics.

But it was at the Olympics where the ‘Thorpedo’ left his mark. He won five medals – three of them gold – at the Sydney Olympics, despite his tender age and the weight of a country on him.

The only disappointment, such as it was, was losing the 200 metres freestyle final to Pieter van den Hoogenband of the Netherlands.

But even with the let-down of the silver medal, Thorpe’s Olympic outing aged just 17 was phenomenal. But that elusive 200m gold provided the motivation for the next Games in Athens.

That said, Thorpe’s preparation for the 2004 Olympics wasn’t ideal. The ability to defend his 400 metres freestyle title in 2004 almost slipped out from under his feet when he fell off the starting block during the Australian trials. However, the withdrawal of Craig Stevens allowed him to compete at Athens in all of his events.

The 400m title remained Thorpe’s, but the biggest success was in the 200, where Thorpe went up against van den Hoogenband and an 18-year-old American by the name of Michael Phelps in an encounter billed as ‘the race of the century.’ The rest, as they say, is history…

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Be sure to follow The Roar as we look back on some of the most memorable moments in Olympic history – Check out the complete 50 day list here and enjoy the Olympics!

The Roar’s countdown to the Rio Olympics

50 days to go: Australia’s first Olympian, Edwin Flack
49 days to go: Brazil capitulate at the 2012 Olympics
48 days to go: Blood in the water during the 1956 Melbourne Olympics
47 days to go: Daniel Carroll, the man who won rugby gold with Australia and America
46 days to go: Margaret Abbott – the golfer who didn’t know she had won gold
45 days to go: Where did all the amateurs go?
44 days to go: Australia’s oarsome foursome
43 days to go: When Korea stood as one
42 Days to go: Oscar Swahn, the oldest Olympian
41 days to go: Edith Bosch – the Olympian not known for her medals
40 days to go: Jane Saville’s heartbreaking Sydney Olympics
39 days to go: Herb Elliot dominates in Rome 1960
38 days to go: Teofilo Stevenson, the boxer who might have beaten Ali
37 days to go: Betty Cuthbert steals the show in Melbourne
36 days to go: Jesse Owens’ heroic performance in Berlin
35 days to go: Eric the Eel steals Sydney’s heart
34 days to go: What happened to Cassius Clay’s gold medal?
33 days to go: Australia’s equestrian brilliance at Barcelona
32 days to go: The Olympic sports which are no longer with us
31 days to go: Debbie Flintoff-King wins on the line
30 days to go: The dominance of basketball’s Dream Team
29 days to go: Nadia Comenaci scores gymnastics’ first-ever perfect score
28 days to go: The man who stopped for a duck
27 days to go: The upset of the Sydney Olympics
26 days to go: Murray Rose’s scintilating Melbourne performance
25 days to go: Greg Louganis’ heroic comeback win
24 days to go: Fencing turns to duelling in Paris
23 days to go: Dawn Fraser’s flag-stealing shenanigans
22 days to go: The most prolific Olympic competitor
21 days to go: Duncan Armstrong’s underdog win in Seoul
20 days to go: Johnny Weissmuller: A brilliant swimmer and Hollywood actor
19 days to go: Majorie Jackson – the Lithgow Flash
18 days to go: Larisa Latynina, the most successful female Olympian
17 days to go: Dimitrios Loundras, the child who won an Olympic medal
16 days to go: Roy Jones Jr is robbed of an Olympic gold
15 days to go: Shane Gould’s superstar performance in Munich
14 days to go: The Kookaburras finally fly to the top of the world
13 days to go: Matthew Mitcham’s historic dive
12 days to go: Even Olympians are prone to the odd fail
11 days to go: Abebe Bikila wins the Olympic marathon running in bare feet
10 days to go: Track cycling’s greatest rivalry
9 days to go: Kieran Perkins’ gold medal from lane eight
8 days to go: Sally Pearson’s awesome run in London
7 days to go: Mark Spitz’ perfect seven gold medals in ’72
6 days to go: Usain Bolt torches the field in Beijing
5 days to go: Michael Klim and Ian Thorpe help smash America’s 4x100m world record like a guitar
4 days to go: Tommie Smith and John Carlos’ defiant black power salute
3 days to go: Michael Phelps – the best to ever grace the Olympics
2 days to go: Cathy Freeman delivers with the weight of a country on her back
1 day to go: Ian Thorpe – Australia’s finest Olympian