Thorpe confused before first Olympic gold

Ian Thorpe was confused moments before he won his first Olympic gold medal at the 2000 Sydney Games.

Ian Thorpe was confused.

Aged 17, he knew the 2000 Sydney Olympics were a big deal.

And he knew his 400m freestyle final on the opening night of competition at Sydney's Games was massive.

But waiting in the callroom before the race, Thorpe was baffled.

"I felt sort of confused. It didn't feel like the Olympics," he later said.

Then he entered pool deck with a sell-out crowd of 17,500 people chanting his name.

"As soon as I walked out, I realised how big this was," he said.

"It was just amazing walking out in front of the home crowd. The emotion really hit me."

Thorpe was the world record holder and world champion in an event his nation assumed he would win.

He could easily have been weighed down by the expectations; he could have fretted over a broken ankle just 11 months before the Games.

He could have worried about drug insinuations from Germany which some even related to his sized 17 feet.

But he didn't. His goggles were effectively blinkers.

"I have a lane and I swim," Thorpe said of his approach.

"If I focus all my energy and attention on what I'm trying to do, I'm going to be able to get my best performance.

"It's as simple as that."

But to the rest of the world, that 400m final was mind-boggling.

Within half a lap, Thorpe led by a body-length. At the first turn, he led by a second - an eternity in swimming.

The race turned into a procession. Thorpe broke his own world record by 0.74 seconds and won the first of five Olympic gold medals in his storied career.

His reaction? Jubilation? Exultation? No.

Thorpe looked at the scoreboard. Raised both fists and whispered 'thank you'.

He left the water with no real outward emotion. But inwardly, he was buzzing.

"I just felt this surge or sheer energy inside of me when I touched the wall and realised I had the world record," he said.