Ian Thorpe: The freestyle king

Ian Thorpe after his swim in the men's 200m freestyle heats at the Olympic swimming selection trials at Sydney Aquatic Centre, 14 May 2000.(Fairfax Media via Getty Images)

'Thorpedo' won five gold medals, the most by an Australian, with three in his home Sydney 2000 Games (400m free, 4x200m and 4x100m freestyle relays) and two more in Athens (400m free, 200m free) four years later.

At the 2004 Games, Michael Phelps opted to compete in the 200m freestyle in a quest to win a record eight gold medals, which Thorpe called "impossible".

The 200m final was dubbed the "Race of the Century" as Thorpe and Phelps lined up against two former world record-holders, Pieter van den Hoogenband of the Netherlands and Australia's Grant Hackett.

It proved Thorpe's greatest victory. Van den Hoogenband turned more than a second ahead of world record pace at 100 metres but Thorpe was never more than a body length away and chased the Dutchman down in the final 50 metres to take gold in an Olympic record 1min 44.71sec, with Phelps third.

Thorpe could not contain his emotion at his victory as he tore off his cap, punched the air wildly and screamed at the top of his lungs.

Thorpe also won three Olympic silvers and a bronze in his only two Games before retiring at the age of 24 in 2006. An ill-fated comeback attempt saw him fail to make the cut for London 2012.