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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

Ian Thorpe

2012 (printed 2021)
Peter Brew-Bevan

inkjet print on paper

Ian Thorpe AM (b. 1982), retired swimmer, has won more Olympic gold medals than any other Australian athlete. He was first selected to represent Australia at age fourteen, following his wins in five events at the 1996 national age championships. His victory in the 400 metres freestyle at the 1998 world championships in Perth made him the youngest men’s world champion in swimming history. He went on to win another four gold medals at the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur, earning his first world record as a member of the 4 x 200 metres freestyle relay team in the process. In 1999 he sliced two seconds off the existing 400 metres freestyle mark at the Pan Pacific Games in Sydney. He set a new world record for the 200 metres freestyle the following day, breaking his own records for both events again in qualifying for the Olympic team in May 2000. Thorpe’s first Olympic campaign, in Sydney, resulted in three gold and two silver medals as well as a further three world records, making him the most successful athlete of the 2000 Games. His haul for 2001 and 2002 included wins in six events at the world championships; six gold medals at the Manchester Commonwealth Games; and the addition to his world record tally of that for the 800 metres freestyle. In 2003, in again claiming the 400 metres freestyle world title, he became the first swimmer to win the same event at three consecutive world championships. His two gold medals at the 2004 Athens Olympics came from victories in the 400 metres and 200 metres freestyle, the final of the latter event pitting him against Dutchman Pieter van den Hoogenband and American Michael Phelps in what was dubbed swimming’s ‘race of the century’. World Swimmer of the Year in 1998, 1999, 2001 and 2002, Thorpe was named Male Athlete of the Year at the Australian Sports Awards in 1999, 2001 and 2002; and in 2001 was awarded International Athlete of the Year by the International Amateur Athletic Association. His retirement from swimming at the age of 24 prompted discussion of whether or not he had been the world’s all- time greatest swimmer.

Ian Thorpe (b. 1982) became Australia's most successful Olympian with his victory in the 200m freestyle at Athens, his second gold medal at the meet bringing his career total to five. 'Thorpedo' is the current world record holder for the 200m, 400m and 800m freestyle events, and a member of the world record relay team for the 4x200m freestyle. Selected at the age of 14 for the national team, he was the youngest male swimmer to represent Australia. Since then he has broken 22 world records and, at the 2000 Olympic Games in his home town, Sydney, he won three gold and two silver medals. He has used his celebrity profile to help children with debilitating illnesses and has established a trust called Ian Thorpe's Fountain for Youth. In 2000 he was a popular choice for Young Australian of the Year.

Gift of the artist 2021
© Peter Brew-Bevan

Artist and subject

Peter Brew-Bevan (age 43 in 2012)

Ian Thorpe OAM (age 30 in 2012)

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

The National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency