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Aussie hires agent as he mulls Olympic decision on Thorpe

4/14/2004

SYDNEY, Australia -- Australian swimmer Craig Stevens hired
an agent to help him decide if he should withdraw from the
400-meter freestyle at the Athens Olympics and allow world champion
Ian Thorpe to defend his title.

Stevens said Wednesday he signed with the management company
Team-Duet and expects to announce his plans within days.

"It's just depending what's going to be best for me in terms of
what I'll swim," Stevens said.

Television programs and magazines reportedly are vying for his
exclusive story.

"Our plans are to spend some time doing our reconnaissance and
looking at all of the various options available, and then in the
fullness of time making a decision," Team Duet's Robert Joske
said.

Thorpe failed to qualify for the 400 freestyle at the Australian
Olympic trials last month because of faults at the start. The
multiple world-record holder qualified for the 100 and 200
freestyle, but his best chance for a gold medal is the 400.

Stevens qualified for the 400, placing second to Grant Hackett
at the trials. He also qualified for the 1,500, finishing behind
Hackett.

Stevens hinted at sacrificing his 400 spot to concentrate on the
longer race. If he pulls out, Australian Swimming can choose
another team member, but Thorpe might not be an automatic
selection.

Australian Swimming and the Australian Olympic Committee have
pulled lawyers into the equation.

According to Australian Swimming criteria, if one of the
selected swimmers for the Olympics withdraws from an event, that
place goes to the next ranked swimmer, who must be a member of the
team.

Josh Krogh placed third in the 400, but didn't make the team
because he wasn't first or second in any event.

Australian Olympic Committee president John Coates on Thursday
said legal advice had been sought to clarify the meaning of "next
ranked" under the rules.

Krogh has ruled out swimming at Athens, even if Stevens
withdraws from the 400.