Throughout his decorated career, SAHOF Member Ian Thorpe AM swam some incredible races, broke numerous records and, upon retirement had won more Olympic medals than any other Australian swimmer before him, but many believe there’s one moment that sits above all others; his swim in the final leg of the 4x100m Freestyle Relay at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. If nothing else, it certainly provided one of the most exciting moments of the Games and one that few Australians who witnessed it will forget in their lifetime.
Thorpe anchored the swim for the Australian quartet, following Ashley Callus, Chris Fydler and Michael Klim – who opened the race with a World-Record-breaking leg. Thorpe was pitted against Team USA’s Gary Hall Jn who was the most highly regarded relay swimmer in the world and had predicted that the Americans would “smash Australia like guitars” prior to the race.
Heading into the final leg, the Australians held a narrow lead, and as the two swimmers hit the water Hall, who was a much more experienced sprinter, hauled that in and took a half-body-length lead into the final turn. It appeared the Americans’ unbeaten record in this event was safe.
Thorpe, though, had other ideas and, with his powerful, relaxed stroke and furious kick, caught Hall in the final metres to touch the wall first, to ensure Australia were Olympic Champions and new World Record holders. Famously, the Australian gold medallists took great pleasure in strumming non-existent guitars in a nod to Hall’s pre-race comments.
This moment was recognised as a Hall of Fame Moment in 2012 due to it having contributed a significant thread to the rich tapestry of Australian sport.