Singapore: Swimming great Ian Thorpe failed to qualify for Singapore's World Cup short-course 100m butterfly final on Saturday as his keenly awaited comeback from a five-year retirement ended in disappointment.
The five-time Olympic champion, who finished second-last in the 100m individual medley final on Friday, was third in his butterfly heat in 54.09 seconds but 11th overall, denying him his only remaining chance of a medal.
The result was a bitter blow to Thorpe and his legion of fans who are hoping the 29-year-old can earn a place at next year's London Olympics and a match-up with American superstar Michael Phelps.
But the tall Australian, who earlier admitted his ambitious comeback carried a high chance of failure, insisted he was not surprised by the result.
"I came here expecting to get absolutely hammered in races and I knew it was going to happen," he said. "Anyone who didn't think that was going to happen didn't have this in perspective."
"I have to have a kind of reality check of where I am as opposed to how I feel in training," he added.
Thorpe, who has been training in Switzerland under star coach Gennadi Touretski, has chosen not to unveil the updated version of the famous freestyle which put him on top of the sport in the early 2000s.
He plans to swim World Cup short-course events in Beijing and Tokyo as he builds towards the all-important Australian Olympic trials in March.
"I was quite annoyed with myself this morning with my time and things like that," he said. "Now I know what I need to do. Racing for me is tough, it is tough to get back into this mode.
"It is not like I've fallen back, I feel like I'm on track. It's just that in the scheme of things I would have liked to have swum better this morning.
"But I also look at where I came in the race, what time I did and look at how I felt a few months ago - I would have taken this any day three months ago."
It was also a sobering meet for fellow Australian veteran Libby Trickett the three-time Olympic champion who followed Thorpe out of retirement this year.
Trickett, 26, placed fifth in both the 100m freestyle and 50m butterfly, following her sixth and last positions in Friday's events.
Thorpe last swam competitively at the 2006 Australian championships, where he won the 100m freestyle, before quitting the sport that year aged just 24, citing a lack of motivation.
He collected five Olympic gold medals in 2000 and 2004 along with 11 world titles in a glittering career which was the inspiration for Phelps, who has 14 Olympic titles.
"I think a lot of people underestimated the complexity of swimming," Thorpe said. "I told people if I was to start swimming again it would take me three years to get back to where I was.
"I'm planning on it not taking that long. I'm trying to fast-track that now."
He added: "If I get to the end of Tokyo and I'm not swimming faster I am going to be very frustrated and I'll be quite annoyed, because I expect this of myself at the moment."