Sydney: Comeback kid Ian Thorpe has left his run too late and is unlikely to qualify for next year`s London Olympics, according to the former coach of Australian swimming great Grant Hackett.
Dennis Cotterell, who trained Hackett to Olympic gold in the 1,500 metres at the 2000 Sydney Games and at Athens four years later, said five-times Olympic champion Thorpe had "probably" underestimated the time needed to get back up to speed.
"Thorpie really hasn`t allowed himself enough lead-in time to make the team, it`s as simple as that," Cotterell told the Australian newspaper Friday.
"Never knock a champion because he`s achieved great things but he has given himself less than a year from his announced return in February to win selection and in my estimation that`s not going to be achievable."
The 29-year-old Thorpe, who quit in 2006, has underwhelmed in his first competitive swims, and finished 16th overall in the 100 metres freestyle and 10th in the 200m at the Italian Winter Open in Riccione at the weekend.
Thorpe and Australia`s head coach Leigh Nugent both dismissed concerns about his progress as premature.
"He`s trying to pack into a year what in reality is a two-year assignment," added Cotterell, who helped prepare China`s current 1,500m world champion Sun Yang for Shanghai, where he broke Hackett`s long-standing world record.
"No matter how good you are ... he`s been out of swimming for nearly six years and that`s a long layoff.”
"You can stay fit and healthy but that`s a lot different from having a competitive edge at the top level of the game.”
"He`s swimming well but he`s not where he would like to be or needs to be."
Thorpe has trained mostly in Europe since his comeback but is expected to return to Australia to swim at the Victorian Championships in January before Olympic trials in March.