Adelaide - Five-time Olympic gold medallist Ian Thorpe missed out on reaching the 200m freestyle final at the Australian Olympic selection trials on Friday with a time well below his supreme best.
Thorpe finished 12th fastest in the semi-finals in Adelaide in one minute 49.91 seconds to miss out on a place Saturday's final, when eight swimmers will compete for the two Australian places available at the London Olympics.
The former world record holder in the event was well placed in second position in his semi-final at the halfway mark but dropped off in the final 50m and struggled home in fifth behind winner and fastest qualifier Ryan Napoleon (1:47.51).
The 200m freestyle, which Thorpe once ruled with a 2001 world record 1:44.06, was considered his best chance of getting into the London-bound team.
But now his hopes ride on the 100m freestyle, starting on Sunday. Even if he cannot finish in the top two, he still has a chance of swimming in the sprint relay in London by finishing in the top-six.
Thorpe, 29, will be up against world champion James Magnussen, Matt Targett, former world record holder Eamon Sullivan and Matt Abood.
"I am terribly disappointed with that after a really good heat swim this morning," a shattered Thorpe said of his 200m time.
"I thought I could and thought I would swim a lot quicker, much quicker.
"I'm not sure why this was slower than my time this morning ... the fairytale has descended into a nightmare.
"It showed my inexperience in racing over the last 18 months."
Thorpe has been back in training for 14 months since announcing his high-profile comeback after five years out of swimming and he dominated all the sporting headlines and publicity leading into the national trials.
He showed glimpses of the dominant form that made him Australia's most successful Olympian by going out hard in the morning heats and held on to qualify for the semis in 1:49.16.
It was more than a second-and-a-half quicker than the best time of his comeback, 1:50.79 at the Victorian championships in January, in a turnaround from a series of underwhelming swims since returning to competition in November.
Meanwhile, Libby Trickett missed out on a chance of defending her Olympic title with a third placing in the 100m butterfly.
The 27-year-old Trickett is on the comeback trail after a short-lived retirement, but found Alicia Coutts and Jessicah Schipper too strong in a hotly-contested 100m butterfly final.
Coutts, a silver medallist at last year's Shanghai world championships, won the final in 57.59 seconds ahead of Beijing bronze medallist Schipper in 57.88sec and both qualified for the event at the London Games in July.
Trickett was third in 58.64sec and six-hundredths of a second inside the Olympic A qualifying time but not in the top two places in the event for London.
"I can't be disappointed," Trickett said. "I did what I went out there to do tonight, I went out after it.
"I'm just so pumped to get on the podium to be honest, because after yesterday (heats and semi-final) I was unsure if that was a possibility.
"So to get as close as I did is hugely confidence building. I can't have any regrets.
"When you have come through the last two years that I have come through, to perform as well as I did... I'm incredibly proud," she said.
Trickett has won six Olympic medals, three of them gold, along with 14 world championship medals.
Coutts won five gold medals at the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games and won three medals at last year's world titles.
Schipper, who was the fastest qualifier into the final, has won 10 medals at five world championships back to 2003.