I am SO excited. Only two more days. I've never seen him swim in person. Gonna have the digital video camera fired up and stocked with tapes. Anyone who lives in So Cal and misses this opportunity is truly nutso. Ian's comin' to town! >>> From the Long Beach Press-Telegram: >>>> Long Beach is 'Thorpedo' alley this week Aussie star heads the Janet Evans Invitational. By Joe Stevens Staff writer Eureka! So this is why all of this "Thorpedo' stuff is attracting so much attention. Australian swimmer Ian Thorpe and five of his teammates took another step toward the Janet Evans Invitational when they charmed media members at a news conference on Tuesday. The scope of the Janet Evans Invitational, which starts Thursday, will include 20 countries and more than 1,000 elite swimmers from around the globe. But even with all of the top athletes competing in the first event of the 2004 Long Beach Aquatics Grand Prix, it became obvious why the polished, smooth and charismatic Thorpe was not only the centerpiece of the news conference, but the event as well. The 21-year-old Thorpe answered an array of questions that could help those not knowledgeable of swimming understand his place in the sport. In Australia, he has the celebrity power of David Beckham or Tiger Woods or Michael Jordan. Thorpe won three gold medals and two silvers at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. He draws so much attention in his homeland that when he was disqualified in the 400-meter freestyle in the Australian national trials and later given back a spot in the event, it was one of the country's biggest news stories. "When it happened, I was trying to scroll around TV channels not to see it, because I don't like watching myself on TV,' Thorpe said. "I saw something, and our prime minister was on TV. He was speaking, so I thought, 'Oh, I can watch this.' But he, too, was talking about it.' Even though the glamorous Thorpe will bring a heap of interest, the 11th annual Janet Evans Invitational isn't all about him. This will be the first, and only, time that swimmers can test the new pools adjacent to the Long Beach Arena before the U.S. Olympic Trials of Swimming, July7-14. In past years, the event was held at USC. This year, it was moved to Long Beach to be a part of the Aquatics Grand Prix, which also includes national men's and women's water polo events. To accommodate the competitions, two 50-meter Olympic- size pools were constructed above ground. With the Janet Evans Invitational leading into the trials and then the trials leading into the Olympics, a feeling of anticipation is among the Olympic hopefuls. When the event starts on Thursday, that should quench some of the swimmers' competitive thirst. Until then, anticipation will remain, and it is no secret that the Janet Evans meet is a prelude to the Olympic Trials. "I wouldn't read too much into it if the results are much slower or faster than expected,' said Petria Thomas, who won two silver medals and a bronze in the Sydney Olympics. "I'm not one to swim my personal best in the middle of the season.' Members of Australia's swim team and Janet Evans gushed about how impressive the pools, constructed by Italy-based Martha Pools, are. "The pools look great, and I can't wait to test the waters,' said Justin Norris, a butterfly specialist for Australia. Evans underscored how high the talent level will be. "Outside of the Athens Games, there is no other place to see world-class swimming than here in Long Beach,' she said. There also is no other place to see the high-profile Thorpe, who is not only the talk among his countrymen, but his teammates. "He's always had great poise, even as a 15-year-old,' said Michael Klim, who will be competing in relays and is Thorpe's former roommate. "He was always in control of everything, and I wonder where he got that. It's not like you're taught that it school. It's part of his character.' All swimming eyes look to be on Thorpe, but he is used to that. "I don't feel pressure,' Thorpe said. "I never feel pressure. I feel expectations.'