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Life coach talked Thorpie out of the pool
Life coach talked Thorpie out of the pool

Life coach talked Thorpie out of the pool

Coaching in the News

TO many Australians, Deidre Anderson will be seen as the person who helped talk our greatest Olympic swimmer into retirement at the young age of 24.

But to Ian Thorpe - and other former athletes who have struggled to walk away from the highs of elite sport - she is a hero.
Just a month ago, Thorpe went to life coach Anderson on the recommendation of another Australian swimming great, Shane Gould. It was Gould who shocked the nation when she retired from swimming at just 16, a year after blitzing the 1972 Munich Olympics.

Thorpe had many things on his mind - complex issues about who he was as a person and what he might do with his life after years of staring at the long black line in the pool and rising to the cheers and accolades of his nation.

A buoyant Thorpe displayed great grace and poise yesterday to tell the world he was leaving competitive swimming for good.

"Everyone will remember what I did in the pool, but this is one of my proudest moments in being able to stand up here and do this today," he said after announcing his retirement.

"It's a thing we should be celebrating, that's how I feel about this," he said.

"I've had a great career. It isn't the best time for me to be walking away from the sport, but it's my time".

Watching on television and cheering him on was Anderson, the CEO of Macquarie University Sport and Recreation and one of Australian sport's great unknown motivators.

Gould was her education. While she wasn't around to help massage the delicate swimmer through retirement, she was able to learn from her years later.

"I spent a lot of time with Shane, understanding what she had been through," Anderson said yesterday. "Now I use that information to help the athlete work through those issues".

While Gould struggled with retirement and has at times voiced the opinion that she left the pool too early, Anderson said she couldn't see Thorpe suffering the same anxieties.

"It was a different era for Shane; it was a different era for comebacks," she said.

"Ian tends to look forward, not back. He'll have moments when he celebrates his achievements, but who knows what that future will hold."

Anderson admitted she could go down in history as the person responsible for losing the Thorpedo but she said it couldn't have happened any other way.

"Ian is at the absolute best he can be as a swimmer. Maybe he could have done greater things ... but in perspective, it's part of his life he will move on from," she said. "It's a tough thing for everyone to get their head around, but he's not thinking of the intrinsic rewards of what sport can bring or he wouldn't be retiring. He's an amazingly insightful young man."

Yesterday, Thorpe wouldn't reveal Anderson's identity, but described her as someone "incredible, absolutely incredible".

"I want to make sure if there's any athletes who are considering walking away from their sport, I want them to be in contact with me so I can put them in touch with this person," Thorpe said.

The work between Anderson and Thorpe will continue as the swimmer makes the transition to a non-sporting life.

"It's as much about the conversation he has been having with himself; it's about how he was going to move himself forward," Anderson said.

Gould told The Australian that Anderson was helpful to her - "she understood what I was going through" - and that she had contacted her out of concern for Thorpe.

"As soon as I rang her, she said she'd been watching him, and she congratulated me on knowing what he needed," she said.

"She's got hands-on experience with athletes in a transition time."

To view this article as it appeared in The Australian click here.


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