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Thorpe's long-course return fizzles

PARIS--Five-time Olympic Games gold medalist Ian Thorpe finished 16th in the 100m freestyle at the Italian Winter Open meet on Friday in the Australian's first long course outing in six years.

Thorpe clocked 50.84 seconds in an event won by Italy's Luca Dotto (48.78 seconds) in the two-day meet at Riccione.

“It was hard but I knew that it would have been. It's important that I compete,” said Thorpe.

The 29-year-old retired in November 2006 after collecting five Olympic golds and 11 world titles, but announced in February this year that he was returning to the pool with the target of making the 2012 London Olympics.

He returned to action in November and took part in three rounds of the World Cup short course championship in Singapore, Beijing and Tokyo. The Australian trains in Switzerland with coach Gennadi Touretski, the former mentor of Russian great Alexander Popov.

Dotto, the runner-up in the 50m freestyle at the 2011 world championships, finished ahead of 2005 world champion Filippo Magnini (48.82 seconds).

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