Australian swimming great Ian Thorpe has revealed how he psyched out his opponents before even hitting the water - and he didn't have to say a word.

The five-time Olympic champion has told news.com.au how we would win the mental game in the marshalling area before races.

"There's different forms of posturing," he said.

"When you walked into the dressing room you always wanted to look like you owned that arena and I made sure I always used to do that.

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"For me, I always said the race started in the marshalling area and my competitors have told me this is what freaked them out the most is how calm and relaxed I was sitting there talking to people normally and then as soon as they announced it was time to walk out to the pool I would walk out exactly how I was going to swim the race."

It's a similar approach New Zealand athletics great John Walker took to his pre-race routine.

Thorpe finished his career with nine Olympic medals, 11 world championship titles and 10 Commonwealth Games gold medals.

The 34-year-old said the mental games also continued after the race.

"I'd make sure when I finished a race that I wouldn't use the ladder. I always tried to jump out the side of the pool to make it look as if I wasn't even tired. Which I was."