Ian Thorpe, Australia’s
most successful Olympian, has finally come out with it.
He will retire after the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

Despite recently signing a lucrative seven
year deal with Adidas, his retirement will draw the curtain on one of the most
successful careers in world sport. If he goes through with the plan, he’ll be
25 years old at the time. So how does that compare with the retirement age of
other swimming greats?

At 27, Dawn Fraser won a gold medal on the
100 metres at the Tokyo Olympics. After repeated clashes with swimming
officialdom, Fraser was then banned from swimming for ten years, but says she
would have continued swimming had she been allowed. “I guess it retired me four years earlier than I wanted to retire,” she
told the ABC in 2002.

– aka “the Seaweed Streak”, thus named for his vegetarian diet which
included seaweed – won a hat trick of gold medals at the 1956 Melbourne
Olympics. His career also ended in frustrating circumstances before the 1964
Olympics when he was told “no Tokyo for you” after he missed the
Olympic trials. He was

there’s Shane Gould. Like Thorpe, Gould was a swimming prodigy who
rewrote the
record books. At one point, she held the world record for every event
from 100m to 1500m, and was the only swimmer to win three gold medals
world record time. A sensation at 13 years old, she was retired by the
time she
was 18.

If Grant Hackett, who has sacrificed the
Melbourne Commonwealth Games to compete in Beijing, decides to
retire after the event, he’ll be around 28 years old. When Kieran Perkins gave
the game away, he was around 27 years old. So it would seem Thorpe’s
announcement is in keeping with the retirement ages of our other great

Keeping in mind that Thorpe has been public property since he was 15,
there aren’t too many people who could argue his retirement is selling anyone,
including himself, short. But then, you
don’t have to be Nostradamus to know he’ll be on our TVs and in our newspapers
long after he hangs up his goggles.