Sydney - Australia's head swimming coach insists Ian Thorpe's hopes of competing at next year's London Olympics are still alive despite his struggles since returning to competitive action.
The five-time Olympic gold medallist competed at his first long course event since early 2006 in Italy at the weekend, and slow times in both the 100m and 200m freestyle raised doubts over whether he would even make the Olympic team.
"For any public figure like Ian everyone has an opinion," coach Leigh Nugent said, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
"Often most of them are ill-informed, so we'll just keep doing what we are doing. That's all we can do. What people write or say is so much of an irrelevancy really."
"I think it's a matter of methodically chipping away. You want the chips to be big enough to put you in the picture, but in the end he can only do what he can do," he added.
"We're not looking for a result now. First of all it's about making the team, then looking for a result in London, which is a fair way off yet."
Neither of Thorpe's Rome times placed him in the top 20 fastest Australian times this year, with his 50.84sec in the 100m freestyle more than three seconds behind world champion James Magnussen's best.
His 1:51.51 in the 200m was more than seven seconds off his personal best.
Nugent said Thorpe would return to training in Europe and would compete in the Olympic trials in March.
Thorpe, 29, retired in November 2006 after winning five Olympic gold medals and 11 world titles, but announced his return to action in February.