Australia’s Olympic swimming icon is no stranger to the spotlight. And he’s just made headlines again, announcing his retirement from the sport. Though Ian Thorpe won’t be winning any more Olympic gold medals, he plans to help children worldwide achieve their own victories.
After the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Thorpe’s first, where he earned three gold and two silver medals, he launched his own charity —the Ian Thorpe’s Fountain for Youth. One of his first projects was a school of orphaned, intellectually disabled children in Beijing, where he still continues to visit. Another is a youth program in Japan.
In 2002, shocked by poor living conditions of the Aboriginal children and their families in his own wealthy nation, Thorpe launched an effort to assist them. Many of the children suffer from chronic hearing impairment, skin and eye diseases.
Thorpe hopes that introducing swimming will reduce skin, eye and ear infections, as well as increase overall health. So far, two communities have completed pools, with two more on the way.
Beyond the pool, he also brings in grants to fund literacy, women’s education and healthcare for the indigenous communities. At fundraisers, Thorpe can be seen swinging a golf club with other children, racing fellow Olympians or speaking on behalf of his charity to increase awareness. He knows the power of his fame and uses it.
Talk about turning water into gold.