Singapore - Australian swimming great Ian Thorpe made a disappointing return to action Friday as he finished second-last in his first race since ending a five-year retirement.
Thorpe, 29, swimming the unaccustomed 100m individual medley at a World Cup short-course event in Singapore, was already off the pace after the first 25m and he ended seventh, more than three seconds adrift of winner Chad le Clos.
The five-time Olympic champion, whose comeback has sparked anticipation of a mouth-watering London 2012 match-up with American superstar Michael Phelps, glared at the scoreboard before smiling and shaking hands with a competitor.
The performance rounded off a dispiriting night for the Australian veterans as triple Olympic champion Libby Trickett, who also came out of retirement this year, finished last and sixth on her return to international competition.
But Thorpe, who announced his shock return in February and has been training in Switzerland under coach Gennadi Touretski, put a brave face on his swim which disappointed a small but favourable crowd at the low-key event.
"It wasn't too bad -- I'm not embarrassed," said Thorpe, who will also compete in Beijing and Tokyo. "I'm still smiling. Test me when I get to Japan, I may not be."
Trickett, 26, also remained confident she would recover her form in time for Australia's Olympic trials in March despite placing sixth in the 50m freestyle and last in the 100m butterfly.
"I'm really thrilled with how I've progressed over the last couple of months. I've certainly can see I've improved my fitness and strength and endurance," she said.
"I think I'll be ready in time for March I know that I'll keep moving forward and this is just one step along the way."
Thorpe, who stunned swimming when he retired in 2006 aged just 24, will also swim the 100m butterfly on the second and final day of competition on Saturday.