By MEL MARTIN
THEY'VE looked up to him for years, he's inspired many of them to become swimmers, and yesterday Coffs Harbour's future swimming stars had one topic on their lips -- the quitting of swimming legend Ian Thorpe.
Training for the national opens at the Coffs Harbour War Memorial Olympic Pool, the young swimmers were disappointed to see the Thorpedo leaving the sport.
"He was my hero since I was a kid," Codey Gray said.
"I think he quit because of all the pressure from the media, all that stuff about him being overweight.
"If it weren't for that he would have kept going, but it was just too much pressure."
Jorja Campbell believed just about everyone had seen Thorpe's retirement coming, but Jacob Venn had an altogether different idea.
"I think it's a publicity stunt, he's doing it for the money and to raise his profile," he said. "It's bad for Australian swimming though, because everyone in the sport knows Australia through him."
And as far as coach Iain Jones was concerned, Thorpe will remain a sporting hero and should now be left alone.
"After what he's done for Australia, he deserves a good break," he said.
"He's a legend, but now it's time to let him get on with his life."