Originally created 04/16/04

Australian Olympic chief expects Stevens to yield to Thorpe



SYDNEY, Australia -- The president of the Australian Olympic Committee expects swimmer Craig Stevens to yield his spot in the 400-meter freestyle to Ian Thorpe at the Athens Games.

Thorpe, the world and Olympic champion in the 400, was disqualified for a false start during heats at the national Olympic trials, allowing Craig Stevens to get an unexpected slot. Stevens has hinted he will sacrifice his spot in the 400 to concentrate on the 1,500.

"We do know that people acting on behalf of Craig have been doing the rounds to sell the story over the last week, so we do anticipate he's going to withdraw," Australian Olympic Committee president John Coates said Thursday.

He added that Australia's governing swim body has spoken with Thorpe's manager about whether the star swimmer would take 400 spot if offered.

"And the answer to that is yes," Coates said.

Coates said nobody had pressured Stevens to make way for Thorpe.

"Ian Thorpe hasn't put any pressure on him," Coates said. "There's certainly been a weight of public opinion that it would be nice for him to withdraw in favor of Ian. Whether that's fair or not you can be the judge."

Stevens is awaiting advice before announcing his Olympic plans.

The AOC had hired a lawyer to review the Olympic selection criteria after Swimming Australia raised concerns over who would be eligible to swim the 400 if Stevens sacrificed his spot. The selection criteria stipulated the first two swimmers at the trials and, if either was unavailable, the "next ranked" swimmer.

AOC lawyer Alan Sullivan said Thorpe should be next in line because the intent of the selection regulations was to chose the best available medal prospect.

Thorpe, who qualified for the 100 and 200 freestyle, was the obvious choice to swim the 400 if Stevens withdrew.

Josh Krogh placed third behind Grant Hackett and Stevens in the 400 at the Olympic trials. Krogh had earlier ruled out swimming at Athens at the expense of Thorpe.