MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Five-times Olympic champion Ian Thorpe has dismissed concerns about his underwhelming return to the pool as "premature", after disappointing at another meeting in Italy over the weekend.
Thorpe finished 16th fastest overall in the 100 meters freestyle at the Italian Winter Open in Riccione, then 10th in the 200m, with times well short of what he would need to qualify for the Australian team at the Olympic trials in March.
"It's important that I race, whether it's a good result or a bad result, I have to keep racing at this stage," the 29-year-old was quoted as saying by The Australian newspaper on Monday.
"But whether it's the 100 or the 200, racing still feels unfamiliar to me. It doesn't feel like I know how to do it yet. But I race again in three weeks (at the Victorian titles), and each time I race, things come back. I'm happy with how I raced.
"I don't look at where I come in the race. I look at the time, how fast it is. I watch it, I critique my race after it but I have no control of what the others are doing. It's not a concern now, maybe later, but now it's too premature."
Thorpe, Australia's most successful Olympian, announced his comeback in February after retiring in 2006 and has since struggled at short-course meetings in Singapore, Beijing and Tokyo.
National head coach Leigh Nugent also warned against writing off the swimmer nicknamed "Thorpedo".
"For any public figure like Ian everyone has an opinion," Nugent said. "Often most of them are ill-informed, so we'll just keep doing what we are doing.
"We're not looking for a result now, first of all it's about making the team, then looking for a result in London, which is a fair way off yet."
(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Ed Osmond)