Thorpe urges Adlington to play it cool

26 July 2012 / 16:10

Five-time Olympic swimming champion Ian Thorpe believes relaxation is key for Rebecca Adlington as the Briton enters London in nigh-on identical circumstances as the Australian found himself in in Sydney 12 years ago.

The 29-year-old was the overwhelming favourite for the 200 metres freestyle in his home town in 2000, with the general consensus being a gold medal was a formality.

However, Pieter van den Hoogenband showed his hand in the semi-finals when he lowered Thorpe's world record and the Dutchman then stunned the home crowd when he went on to claim the Olympic title.

Adlington now finds herself in the same position, some talking in terms of when she wins gold, not if. Thorpe empathised with the 23-year-old, who will be defending both the 400m and 800m freestyle titles she claimed in Beijing.

He said: "I think it is the hardest thing, the assumption a gold medal is won before a heat has even been swum. I had to deal with that leading into a home Olympics where people would come up to me and say 'I can't wait to see you win your first Olympic gold'.

"And Becky also has the pressure on her that she is defending Olympic titles as well which adds another layer of complexity to it going into this Olympics. So it is difficult for her. I think from what I've seen from the footage of her arriving she looks quite relaxed and she needs to stay relaxed over the next few days."

As well as Adlington, Britain boasts the likes of Fran Halsall, Ellen Gandy and Hannah Miley - all world medallists - as well as world open water champion Keri-Anne Payne. However, Thorpe warned that expectation must be tempered by reality given the strength of swimming across the world.

He said: "You have to manage your expectations. The British team can swim very well, it's just how well all the other teams do also. I think we'll see marked improvements in performances from a lot of countries and the British team could be one of them."

As well as a potential battle between Federica Pellegrini and Adlington, the top two in the 400m freestyle at last year's World Championships in Shanghai, Thorpe is looking forward to seeing his compatriot, the sprint freestyler James Magnussen.

The swimmer known as 'The Missile' is the hot favourite for the 100m freestyle after he became Australia's first world champion in the event last year. Thorpe said: "James Magnussen will be brilliant here. I cannot wait to watch him swim. He is the most impressive swimmer I've seen over probably the last decade that is new to the sport."