Not all champions can be role models, says Thorpe

Tue Jun 21, 2016 5:02am EDT
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By Sudipto Ganguly

MUMBAI (Reuters) - Although Olympic champions can make great role models, sports officials can't expect all athletes to be angels in their pursuit of results, according to Australian swimming great Ian Thorpe.

The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) has taken a hard line on team culture at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, four years after their London Games delegation was embarrassed by a number of unsavoury incidents involving misbehaving athletes.

Several athletes have been put on watch-list ahead of the Games, while the country's top tennis player Nick Kyrgios withdrew himself from consideration after a row with the AOC over his behavior in the public arena.

Thorpe was a paragon of sportsmanship during a glittering swimming in which he won five Olympic golds and 11 world titles but said it was tough to expect all athletes to match sporting excellence with impeccable conduct.

"I prefer them to be good leaders but it's not a requirement," Thorpe told Reuters in an interview. "We want them to be good role models, we want everyone to be perfect.

"But what happens if the athlete isn't perfect but they get the results? Which one's more important? This is really difficult and it's a difficult position for sports to be in."

Australia's Rio Chef de Mission Kitty Chiller has spear-headed the AOC's culture imperative and publicly lashed Kyrgios and his David Cup team mate Bernard Tomic for poor conduct.

Although only 21, Kyrgios has a long rap-sheet of abusing opponents, umpires and fans, and was given a suspended ban by the men's tennis circuit for making a lewd comment at twice grand slam champion Stan Wawrinka during a match last year.   Continued...

Australian swimmer Ian Thorpe speaks during an interview with Reuters in Mumbai, India, June 16, 2016. REUTERS/Shailesh Andrade