'Legend status': Sporting world erupts over Ian Thorpe news

Seen here, Ian Thorpe reacts after winning gold at the Athens Olympic Games in 2004.
Ian Thorpe has joined an exclusive club after being elevated to legend status in the Sport Australia Hall of Fame. Pic: Getty

Aussie swimming legend Ian Thorpe and Test cricket great Dennis Lillee have been hailed after joining an exclusive club made up of the nation's greatest ever sporting icons.

Lillee and Thorpe have been elevated to legend status in the Sport Australia Hall of Fame - becoming just the 43rd and 44th Australian sporting greats to be bestowed with the remarkable honour.

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Athletes must be retired for at least 15 years before being considered for elevation to legend status.

The most successful male Olympian in Australia's history, Thorpe's feats in the pool saw him placed into the Hall of Fame in 2008.

In nine years of elite swimming, Thorpe won five Olympic gold medals and set 23 world records.

Pictured centre, Ian Thorpe with his Olympic 200m freestyle gold medal in 2004.
Ian Thorpe (centre) is Australia's most successful male Olympian of all time. Pic: Getty

As a 17-year-old, Thorpe was the star of Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, claiming three gold and two silver medals in front of his home crowd.

"It's an honour and a privilege to be part of a group of people who have shaped the Australian sporting and cultural identity around the world," Thorpe said.

The swimming icon appeared on Channel Seven's Sunrise program on Monday, where he said news of his elevation to legend status "definitely made my day”.

“I was asked whether I was willing to accept the award and of course I said yes,” he told hosts David Koch and Natalie Barr.

Thorpe and Lillee join 42 other Australian sporting icons, including Evonne Goolagong-Cawley, Sir Donald Bradman, Dawn Fraser, Bart Cummings and Cathy Freeman, as receiving Sport Australia's highest honour.

Australia's five-time Olympic gold medallist says to be mentioned in the same breath as such an illustrious list of names is incredible.

“To be amongst that group of legends who have been there before is a wonderful thing and hopefully this inspires more people to be able to move into that status as well,” Thorpe said.

Sporting world hails Aussie legends

Australia's sporting community was congratulate Thorpe and Lillee on their latest honour.

Lillee, whose glittering 70-Test career ended in 1984, was inducted into the Hall of Fame the following year but has had wait another 36 years to be recognised as a legend.

When he left international cricket, Lillee was the leading Test wicket-taker with 355 and his tally remains as the fourth-most for an Australian, only behind Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and Nathan Lyon.

Seen here, Former Australia Test star Dennis Lillee in front of his statue at the MCG in 2006.
Former Australia Test star Dennis Lillee stands in front of his statue at the MCG in 2006. Pic: Getty (Robert Cianflone via Getty Images)

"You couldn't do it without them (his teammate)," the former tearaway fast bowler said.

"We had some great teams during my career, but more than anything, they were all great blokes. They were like family."

with AAP

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