Ian Thorpe's swimming career could be over.
The five-time Olympic champion has scheduled a midday news conference today at a downtown Sydney hotel. A few days ago, it was thought the announcement might be Thorpe's withdrawal from the world championships next March.
But with the championship trials next month in Brisbane looming and no sign of Thorpe, who has been plagued by illness, injury and a lack of motivation in recent years, officials and teammates fear he is going to quit.
"It will be a huge announcement," an Australian swimming official, speaking on the condition of anonymity so as not to pre-empt the news, told The Associated Press yesterday.
He declined to give any more details, but said the announcement would have nothing to do with talk in recent days by Thorpe's coaches about lingering effects of a bout of glandular fever early this year.
"That's all a smoke-screen," the official said.
Thorpe exploded onto the swimming scene as a teenager and swam 13 world records between 1999 and 2002, becoming an international star after dominating the pool at the Sydney Olympics.
Thorpe and American Michael Phelps are acknowledged as the world stars of swimming.
The 24-year-old Australian won the 200m and 400m freestyle events at the Athens Olympics but has not competed in a major meet since.
He planned a major yearlong break after Athens, claiming "mental fatigue" and hoping to stay fresh for major competitions down the road.
He later decided not to compete at last year's world championships in Montreal, then dropped out of the Commonwealth Games in March due to the glandular fever bout.
That illness and other minor injuries have affected his training in the leadup to the Australian swim trials in Brisbane next month.