By JIM KERNAGHAN -- Free Press Sports Columnist
SYDNEY -- The Thorpedo collided with a Hoogenband on Monday and got the worst of the collision.
A roaring crowd of 17,500 tailed off to a pained hush as Australia's newest sports hero, Ian Thorpe, failed to make a dent in Dutchman Pieter van den Hoogenband in a 200-metre freestyle final showdown.
Hoogie did a boogie, stealing the show by breaking the world record he set two days ago in the heats. His time of one minute, 45.35 seconds edged the crowd's 17-year-old hero by 48/100ths of a second.
"Tactics?" responded the affable Dutchman to a reporter's question. "I just wanted to get the best out of this body. On the last turn, I pushed off and said to myself I really want this gold medal."
Van den Hoogenband watched from afar as Thorpe shattered world records the past year. "I was home training. He motivated me."
Italy's Massimiliano Rosolino won the bronze in 1:46.65.
Thorpe, who has two golds and a silver so far, lived up to his reputation for being completely unaffected by his celebrity status.
"A great athlete beat me," Thorpe said. "I'm happy with the way I raced. I'm disappointed in my time but not (in) the result. This is the Olympic Games and all the best athletes in the world are here. It's a privilege to be here."
Thorpe had congratulated van den Hoogenband on his world record two days ago.
"Sure, I congratulated him on his performance and asked him to enjoy it." The towering Aussie with the giant feet (size 17 or 18, depending on who's telling it) has been described as everything from Superman to a swimming machine. He dismissed notions of being under pressure.
"The only pressure is the pressure I put on myself, and that's something I use to my advantage."
Thorpe's coach, meanwhile, wants people to give the kid some room to grow. "I worry about all the pressure placed on him," said Don Talbot. "I mean, he's only 17.
"I've never seen a boy like him before," Talbot said. "I don't know how good he is yet. But the fact is, he's just a boy. I've never come across anyone like him and I've been around a long time."
Malar, Limpert advance
Earlier in the session, Canadians Joanne Malar and Marianne Limpert qualified for the 200-metre individual medley final by finishing 2-3 in their heat. Malar, with a time of 2:13.59, broke her own Canadian record in the process, while Limpert was timed at 2:13.90. Romania's Beatrice Caslaru won in 2:13.31.
"I'll be making some tiny adjustments (for the final)," said Malar, who was fourth in the event four years ago in Atlanta.
Limpert, the 1996 silver medallist behind Irish drug cheat Michelle Smith de Bruin, said she can go faster in the final.
"I probably had one gear left," she said. "I'll be nervous but that's healthy."