Ian Thorpe ready to return

SYDNEY -- Ian Thorpe and Libby Trickett, two of Australia's top swimmers of the past decade, will return to international competition at three World Cup meets in Asia in November to prepare for next year's London Olympics.

Swimming Australia said Friday that seven-time Olympic gold medalist Thorpe, who returned to the pool in February after a 4½-year retirement, and Trickett, who hasn't competed since the world championships in August 2009, would be part of the Australian team at the meets in Singapore, Beijing and Tokyo.

Thorpe will join the Australian team from his training base in Tenero, Switzerland.

"The reality for me is I'm now at the next stage of my preparation and getting ready to race competitively, and I'm really looking forward to catching up with everyone in Singapore," Thorpe said.

The 28-year-old Thorpe retired in November 2006 after setting 13 world records and winning 11 world championship golds. He won both the 200 and 400 free at the 2004 Athens Olympics in his last major international meet.

In June, Trickett, 26 and a three-time Olympic champion, failed in her bid to qualify for an Australian relay spot for the world championships in July. She won a relay gold at Athens in 2004 and individual and relay golds at Beijing in 2008, but was not eligible for the Australian trials due to a requirement for her to undergo drug-testing before competing.

Trickett, who swam at this year's Australian short course championships in July, said the meet will be her first chance to race internationally since announcing her comeback.

"I didn't get the chance to swim in Europe earlier in the year because of a wrist injury so it's going to be great to get back in the water and compete on the international stage," Trickett said.

There was no indication which events Thorpe and Trickett would compete in at the World Cup meets. Thorpe has said he will concentrate on the 100- and 200-meter freestyle events and drop the 400, an event in which he once held the world record.

The 200 could put him up against American star Michael Phelps, who won a record eight gold medals at Beijing.

Thorpe and Phelps last met in the event dubbed the "Race of the Century," the 200 freestyle final at the Athens Olympics in 2004.

Thorpe won, Dutch swimmer Pieter van den Hoogenband was second and Phelps was third. But that was well before Phelps established himself as the most prolific swimmer and record holder since Thorpe.