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Ranking the Olympic Comebacks -- February 28, 2011

Column by John Lohn, Swimming World senior writer

NEW YORK, New York, February 28.
PABLO Morales. Dara Torres. Most recently, Geoff Huegill.
These are just a few athletes who have made successful comebacks in the pool after stepping away from the sport of swimming. As you are most likely aware, there have been a spate of comebacks recently, and even more rumors of individuals regaining the racing itch. This week's column will take a look at those chasing glory once again and the chances they'll find success.
Since it's a day after the Academy Awards, we'll go with a movie-rating scale for the comebacks. Four stars means big things to come. One star? Not so much. Let's hear your comments on the comeback crew. Ian Thorpe: The rumors of his return had swirled for years, but never contained any substance until recently. Now that Thorpe is back in the water and focused on competing at the 2012 Olympics in London, his reuniting with the water is the premier comeback in the sport. This is what many fans of the sport wanted to see. The Thorpedo, a five-time Olympic gold medalist, is going about his return in a different way than is typical. Rather than train in his homeland and benefit from the vast resources available in Australia, Thorpe has ventured to the United Arab Emirates, and will work in greater solitude than what is available in his home nation. Thorpe has indicated his focus will be on the 100 and 200 freestyles during this second chapter of his career, which means likely meetings with Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte over the longer distance. Thorpe has never been a pure sprinter, and there isn't reason to believe he can be a major factor on that stage.

Comeback Potential:
2.5 out of 4 stars.

Laure Manaudou:
The 2004 Olympic champion in the 400 freestyle, Manaudou is now a mom and residing in the United States, where her beau, Fred Bousquet, trains under Brett Hawke. Manaudou is an incredible talent, her track record providing all the proof anyone needs. While it is not locked in yet, it sure looks like she'll make a run at another Olympiad. If Manaudou puts in the necessary workload with that crew down at Auburn University, she has a good chance of making noise once again in the middle-distance events. Why? Well, she's only 24 and there's a sense she can battle it out with the likes of rival Federica Pellegrini, along with Rebecca Adlington and Katie Hoff, just to name a few.

Comeback Potential:
3 out of 4 stars.

Libby Trickett:
The Australian wasn't away from the sport for too long and, therefore, hasn't had to climb as tall a mountain as her returning counterparts. With the techsuit era gone, a stretch that allowed her rivals to narrow the gap Trickett created, she could again become one of the world's elite sprinters. We might even see her in relay duty at the World Champs in Shanghai this summer, provided she performs admirably at a special time trial.

Comeback Potential: 4 out of 4 stars.

Ed Moses: A comeback for the 2000 Olympic silver medalist in the 100 breaststroke would have been better to see a few years ago. Moses has been known for his intensive dryland core work and quickly rose up the world rankings in the late 1990s and into the early 2000s. Although it will be more difficult to surge again as a 30-year-old, at least he knows it can be done. Another thing on the side of Moses is the fact that the United States is not overly impressive in the breaststroke at the moment. That said, maybe he can get it together and work his way into the mix in time for the 2012 Olympic Trials in Omaha. It will be an extremely difficult task. Comeback Potential: 2 out of 4 stars. Michael Klim: Not long after Ian Thorpe made his announcement, Klim made it known he would also give the sport another shot. The star of the 1998 World Champs in Perth and the leadoff swimmer (world-record time) for the Australian team that won gold in the 400 free relay at the 2000 Olympics, Klim is an all-time. As for this comeback, even he admits it will be a longshot. We agree.

Comeback Potential:
1 out of 4 stars. As many have read,

Ian Crocker and Brendan Hansen have also been in the water at their former stomping grounds, the University of Texas. As of now, nothing official has come out of those camps. So, for the former world-record holders, their current grades are incomplete.

Follow Swimming World Senior Writer John Lohn on Twitter: @JohnLohn

Reaction Time Comments
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February 28, 2011 I agree with all ratings but L. Manadou´s: I think she is 4 out of 4 stars! And I have said so somewhere else and got criticized a lot..
Well, time will tell.
Submitted by: nadador
February 28, 2011 Jury is still very much out on Manadou, but I saw some pictures of her from a meet the other day, and she looks as RIPPED as could see her 12-pack through her t-shirt! She certainly passes the eyeball test of being an elite athlete already!
Submitted by: GigEmAggies
February 28, 2011 Manadou all the way!
Submitted by: paddles
February 28, 2011 I agree Ian Thorpe's comeback is a big ask – and that 100 Freestyle was not his best event – but let's not forget he did win an Olympic Bronze medal in the event at Athens (was there a bigger sprinting stage at the time?) – and who could forget his incredible final leg in the men's 4x100 Freestyle Relay Final at the Sydney 2000 Olympics (where I think he had only just turned 16 years old) – so although perhaps not a "pure sprinter", he was by any normal measure one of the best sprinters of his era – and rather than training in the UAE, it would appear this is just a brief stopover on his way to the Swiss national training centre at Locarno, where he will be prepared by Alex Popov's coach, Gennadi Touretski – so Ian's prospects might not be quite as grim as you suggest – still, 2.5 stars is probably a fair assessment.
Submitted by: hsnamf
February 28, 2011 Thorpe's 2.5 stars is a fair assessment. had he made his comeback a year ago, it would have been 5/4 stars!
I can't wait for the manadou-pellegrini duel in the 200 free.
I think trickett's 4/4 stars is a bit too generous. she will find the competition tougher this time with kromowdjojo and steffen.
Submitted by: aswimfan
March 1, 2011 I think Thorpe's rating of 2.5 is a bit low I would go for a 3 at least. As for the opinions that his sprinting ability is suspect, remember when he won bronze in the 100 in 2004 he was primarily training for the 200 and 400's which he won as well. The 100 being a bonus event and he won a bonus medal there! The point I'm making is that with specific focus and speed and race pace training for the 100 he could well improve on his previous best in that event. Also remember he has been back in the water since last September so his fitness level is considerably higher than might be assumed on the date of his announced comeback.
I believe he will make an impact and could well final in London. A medal in the 200 a distinct possibility and probably top six finish in the 100. Relay medals also up for grabs but probably not that easy due to the current depth and quality of at least 3 other national teams ie USA, France and Russia.
Ed Moses is definitely an unknown comeback prospect. A recent interview on Swimming World TV Ed could be seen to be "boasting" that no one beats him in training! Rather a strange statement to make since he has been retired so long. If he can back up the over confidence with a commitment to prove that he can't be beaten then don't count him out.

Submitted by: scotswim
March 1, 2011 If we are grading on the Academy Awards scale, then I give Thopedo the Oscar just for the DRAMA he is creating in that Olympic 200 free final. Phelps v Beiderman v Lochte v Thope v Park v Angel v Russian guys... The storylines are endless!
Submitted by: miws
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