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At the end of the year, Thorpe qualified for the Australian Short Course Championships.
It was another chance to gain national selection, as the event served as the selection trials for the 1997 FINA World Swimming Championships.
With a top-three finish and a specific qualifying time required for selection, Thorpe focused on the 400 m freestyle after injuries to world record holder Kieren Perkins and Daniel Kowalski; both had won Olympic medals in the event.
Thorpe went on to win bronze behind 16-year-old Queenslander Grant Hackett, setting a new personal best of 3 min 53.44 s.
Thorpe qualified in second place in the heats of the 400 m individual medley and reached his first national final.