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Superstar Thorpe left high and dry

• Olympics 2004: Special report 

ATHENS, Greece -- Ian Thorpe's Athens Olympics came to an abrupt and disappointing end as his Australian team-mates unexpectedly failed to qualify for final of the 4x100m medley relay in the heats on Friday.

While the superstar was kept in reserve, Matt Welsh, Jim Piper, Adam Pine and Michael Klim could only post the ninth fastest time.

That means Thorpe, who would have swum the relay final on Saturday, will finish his Games campaign with four medals, including two gold.

He took top honors in the 200m and 400m freestyle, a silver in the 4x200m free relay and bronze in the 100m free.

Even without a medal from the medley relay, Thorpe's accomplishments in Athens made him Australia's most successful Olympian. With his fifth career Olympic gold in the 200m free, Thorpe surpassed athlete Betty Cuthbert and swimmers Murray Rose and Dawn Fraser for the most by an Australian.

In two Olympics Thorpe has nabbed five gold, three silver and a bronze.

Australian head coach Leigh Nugent said Welsh's lead-off backstroke leg in the relay heats was a key to the failure for Australia, which in Sydney claimed silver behind the United States.

"That really started the rot," Nugent said. "The front end of our swim just wasn't strong enough."

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