In a sobering reality check, Ian Thorpe failed to qualify for the 100m freestyle final - his specialty event - at the FINA World Cup short course meet in Beijing on Tuesday.
Australia's greatest Olympian finished fifth in his heat in 50.21 seconds - a time that was only 15th fastest overall in the modest field.
In contrast, fellow Australian Kyle Richardson (48.11) was fastest qualifier for Tuesday night's final.
Thorpe, 29, made a late decision to contest the 100m freestyle in Beijing after initially entering the 100m individual medley.
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The event was expected to provide a more accurate gauge of Thorpe's progress ahead of the London Olympic trials in March after he only contested the 100m butterfly and 100m individual medley at his comeback meet in Singapore last Friday and Saturday.