His name’s uttered in the same breath as swimming legends Mark Spitz, Alexander Popov, and Michael Phelps. But Australian Ian Thorpe may soon be compared to Jamie Oliver, Gordon Ramsay and Nigella Lawson for his burgeoning culinary aspirations.
At 29, Thorpe already has five Olympic gold medals, alongside many others, to his name thanks to his aquatic prowess. But in 2006, the ‘Thorpedo’, as he’s dubbed, took a sabbatical from swimming to pursue his other talents. For example, his countrymen caught a glimpse of Thorpe’s sartorial side when he appeared as a guest judge on Australia’s Next Top Model.
Still, Thorpe’s true passion doesn’t seem to lie on the catwalk, but in the kitchen. Most Singaporeans will find a kindred spirit in this self-professed foodie, who admits to a love of tucking into a hearty meal. Thorpe’s already proved his chef’s chops by compiling a cookbook titled Ian Thorpe: Cook for Your Life in August last year and hosting his cooking show, Cook For Your Life – no doubt winning over legions of busy housewives.
“I wrote the recipes. It’s based on what I eat from day to day, from week to week,” the affable Australian tells UrbanWire. The recipes were inspired by the strict dietary regimen that Thorpe adheres to, spiced up with his own experimental flair and taste for food that’s both wholesome and convenient.
“Since I started competitive swimming, I had to be more prepared. I always make sure that there’s a good meal available even when I’m too tired to lift a spoon,” he added.
According to Thorpe, it was his hiatus from swimming that allowed his culinary passion to blossom. “I took about a year to write it. It’s based on how I prepare food, the strategy that I employ when I don’t have time or when I’m busy or tired, to make sure that I’ll always have a proper meal.”
Aspiring swimmers can take their lead from the Thorpedo’s recipes, since they’re borne out of his intimate knowledge of the adage “you are what you eat”.
“Bad food kinda equals feeling miserable,” admitted Thorpe. “Upon returning to competitive swimming, I’ve realised that everything is based upon recovery and cooking is something that has an unusual influence on that.”
And Thorpe’s going to want all the leg-up he can get, as he had announced that he’ll be returning to the pool in February last year– a revelation that drove swimming enthusiasts and the Australian media into frenzy and made him the darling Down Under once again.
Adding to the excitement is the fact that Thorpe’s announcement comes mere months before the 2012 Olympic games in London, where his fans and countrymen will be hoping for a repeat of his 2000 and 2004 Olympics performances, where he amassed a total of 8 medals, including 5 golds, in the various freestyle categories.
With the mounting expectations for Thorpe’s performance and increased scrutiny on his every move, the Australian may have reason to proceed with caution as he’s already admitted he won’t be taking part in his most successful event – the 400m freestyle – citing a lack of training time. More pessimistic observers might also see ominous clouds in the horizon as since his return, Thorpe failed to win a medal in the 3 FINA World Cup meets in Singapore, Beijing and, more recently, Tokyo.
His sputtering star notwithstanding, Thorpe’s confident he has what it takes to live up to his Sydney and Athens glory. So far he’s kept mum about his recipe for success, save for 1 crucial ingredient: training – and lots of it. That has taken him to Switzerland for an extensive course as he carries on his comeback trail to superstardom. He’ll be heading back to Australia for the Victorian Championships in January, where many will be viewing his performance as a precursor to the Summer Olympics.
While time may not be on his side, Thorpe’s already proven that he has more than a few surprises up his sleeve and knows how to adapt to different environments. And even if Thorpe fails to cook up a storm at the Olympics, he’ll certainly be able to whip one up on MasterChef.