Australia’s Olympic swimming legend Ian Thorpe speaks with Men’s Style about fashion, Rio and his new role as ambassador for the The Star at this weekend’s The Star Doncaster Mile at Royal Randwick.
Have you been a race day ambassador before?
No, it’s a first for me. I’ve been to the races a few times but never in this capacity.
Are you a regular follower of the horses?
A little bit. If I’m going along to the races I’ll spend time actually studying the form guide and looking at the past performances of horses, and the jockeys and trainers and such things but it’s only when I go along to the races that I take that level of interest.
And after The Star Doncaster Mile it’s safe to assume you’ll kick on at The Star?
I’ll be at The Star Doncaster marquee for the races during the day and then we’ll finish up at The Star, which is the perfect place to end a day at the races.
Have you worked out what you’ll be wearing?
Only yesterday. I’ll be in a suit, obviously, and trying to go with traditional colours for The Doncaster – which is monochrome – and because it’s the Doncaster, trying to get the accessories right as well.
You are a big guy – do you get bespoke suits, made-to-measure, or what?
I go between both of those. I have a couple of bespoke suits because my proportions are a little bit out from the standard block. If you’re investing in a suit it’s important to get the sizing right so that you could live in that suit. All guys should invest at a minimum in a good tailor who can – even if it’s off-the-rack – modify it slightly to fit your build.
Do you like the opportunity to dress up?
I do. It’s not like I’m putting a suit on every day so for me, I like the tradition that comes with it and to try and look my best and scrub up okay.
When not in a suit, what’s your reliable go-to look these days? Are you into the whole sports luxe thing?
See, sports luxe is a little difficult for me because I was always in training gear when I was swimming, it was the one thing I wanted to get out of [afterwards]. Sports wear, for me, is about going to the gym or training. The rest of the time, I want to be in something else, so I go more for that beachy Sydney, Mediterranean look… that’s what suits our climate and it’s comfortable.
How do you shop, bits and pieces or all at once? Online or in store?
Mostly in store. And I usually do it one fell swoop. I usually know what pieces I’m looking for and if I see something else that I’m impressed with, I’ll add that as well. It’s about picking the right things to be able to carry it over for more than a season.
What else are you busy with these days?
I have two shows coming out this year – one I filmed last year, and we’re in production for show about bullying as well. It’s leading up the Olympics now as well so I’m doing a little bit around the swimming, including the Australian Championships [in Adelaide, April 7-14] which are our Olympic selection trials.
Do you still get some competitive urges as another Olympics approaches?
It’s behind me now but you can’t help still feel it. They played footage of a couple of my races during a TV interview and I couldn’t help but feel nervous, because I know what it felt like when I was there. When I’m at the Olympics and watching it, I’m fidgeting in my seat and almost trying to swim the stroke for the person I’m watching. It’s strange but that’s what sport should do to you and I guess I have an interesting perspective on it as well.
Do you have a mentoring role with any of the new-gen swimmers?
I chat with a few of them. This afternoon I’m going out to have a chat to one of the Sydney squads. I like being able to that because the people competing now are the custodians of the sport, there’s going to be another generation that comes along, and we want to maintain the team in the same way and have it mean as much to the people there now and into the future as it did to us when we were on the team.
Will you be in Rio and what sort of Games can we expect?
I’m hoping to be in Rio. I think it will be a great Games in terms of what it will look like. I know there’s a few issues around infrastructure and how it’s put together but I do think it will be a very successful games for the entire Australian Olympic team. For the swimmers, I think we’ll win a few medals in Rio which will be a huge turnaround from London.