What They (Athletes) Want and What We (Fans) Want to Remember

Ian Thorpe won’t be in the 2012 London Olympics. Not in the 100 meters or 200 meters freestyle races, as his performances at the Australian Olympic Swimming Trials just weren’t enough to secure him a spot on the plane to England, branding his comeback attempt, at the moment, as a failure.

At 29, the odds were against Thorpe. Not only in reliving the golden days of 2000 and 2004, but of even making it back to the Olympic games. At 26, he retired from the sport, after five gold medals over two summer Olympics – Sydney (2000) and Athens. Thorpe won what has been known as the race of the century, beating Peter van den Hoogenband by half a body length in the 200 meters freestyle. Michael Phelps, at 15, finished third in that race.

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Thorpe’s comeback has been met with mostly a negative response. Too old, too expensive of a training camp in Europe (the only legitimate complaint regarding Thorpe), why doesn’t he settle for what he’s already accomplish, instead of tarnish a legacy?

Thorpe spoke to the media after failing to get the ticket to London, and it was pretty clear as to WHY. He loves the sport, and as much is it hard for us mortals to comprehend, sometimes, it’s not about winning or earning money. It’s about doing the thing you love, which so few of us actually get to do for a living.

We want to remember our idols, or sporting heroes at their best, when they were young, strong and invincible. We hate to see them switch team after team during their almost-retirement years, looking for one more championship ring or another big contract they don’t deserve anymore. It goes for team sports, and for the individual, so called-Olympic sports. Swimming everyday may seem like a bore to most, but Thorpe, who won’t be making million or winning any medals in the future, loves it, and want to keep on doing it.

When Michael Jordan returned to the Wizards, it was disappointing. But it burned in him, and he wasn’t half bad, although not the MJ of old, the best player, maybe the best athlete in the world. Boxers tend to hang around too long. Muhammad Ali got banged up too many times when he shouldn’t have been in the ring anymore. Pride, a desire for one last triumph, and yes, as hard as it is to except – Love for the sport, and enjoying what you do.

Even if you’re no longer dominant, even if you’re no longer as good as you used to be. Sometimes, the very reason that made you jump in the pool for the first time in your life to complete a lap or pick up the boxing glove, is actually the same reason you keep on going, after achieving so much, with no chance of actual success and repeating what you’ve done on the horizon.