About Kieren Perkins
Kieren Perkins is the greatest swimmer in history! He has broken 12 world records and is the first person in history to hold the Olympic, World, Commonwealth and Pan Pacific titles simultaneously. In addition he holds the records for all of these. He has broken over 40 Australian records and is without doubt one of the greatest Australian athletes of all time.
Kieren first came to notice at the Australian Championships of 1989. He finished 2nd in the 1500, behind Glen Houseman (who broke the world record) in 15:19.94 and made the team for the 1990 Commonwealth Games.
Kieren swam his first big race in 1990 when he was 16 at the Commonwealth Games. His coach predicted Kieren would swim under 15 minutes in the 1500m. Nobody would believe it, but Kieren swam a 14:58.08 to become only the 3rd person to break the 15 minute barrier. He was only beaten by the World Record holder Aussie Glen Houseman, and is still the youngest person to break 15 minutes.
In the 1991 World Championships Kieren Perkins and the German Jorg Hoffman fought a fascinating dual at below world record pace. They were stroke for stroke the entire time but the more experienced Hoffman out turned Perkins and won by a few hundredths of a second in 14:50.38. It was a new world record. Kieren went 14:50.58 which was also way under the world record. Kieren tried to congratulate him but Jorg gave him the finger and sneered"Iam World champion!" After the race, Kieren refused to eat for 3 days. But in 1997 Jorg Hoffman admitted he had been under the effects of steroids, and so if it wasn't for that Kieren would have won the title and record.
Kieren put it behind him and at the 1991 Pan Pacs he broke the 800m freestyle world record, literally stopping in the middle of the 1500 to check it was his. After a bit he kept on swimming and still won the race! Kieren broke a few more world records and then in April 1992 it was the Olympic Trials, where he broke the 400 and 1500m freestyle world records.
At the Olympics Kieren was understandably nervous and in the 400 (his first ever Olympic final) he swam too cautiously so unfortunately Russian Evgeny Sadovyi beat him by 4 hundredths of a second. But in the 1500m Kieren never looked back.
It was predicted this would be the big showdown between Perkins and Hoffman. But really it was just a display of Perkins' superiority. He led the whole way and Hoffman finished 18 seconds behind. The crowd went crazy as Kieren zoomed to world record victory in 14:43.48.
In 1993 Kieren broke the short course world records for the 800m and 1500m, and won 3 gold at the Pan Pacs. He was an extremely vital part of the winning Sydney 2000 Olympic bid. As the bid committee chairman said, "Daylight came second to Kieren Perkins."
In 1994 at the Commonwealth Games he won the 200, 400, 1500 and 4x200 relay. Every race he entered he not only won, but won it in a new world or games record. In the 1500m he broke not only the 1500m world record (14:41.66) but the 800m in the same swim! (7:46.00)
Kieren's coach actually hadn't wanted Kieren to break 2 world records in the one swim, he'd just wanted him to break the 800m and then slow down. But Kieren was feeling too good for that! "I woke up that morning and thought 'I want to break a world record, and I want to break a 1500m world record', and when Mr Carew [his coach] said for me to break the 800 I thought 'well, I'll break that too.'"
"I turned [after the 800 world record] and I was feeling good, but I thought, `Oh, I'll get into trouble if I don't drop off the pace a little bit', but I wrestled with it for about 25 metres and just went for it - much to Mr Carew's dismay. It was just too difficult to slow down."
His coach thinks that if Kieren had waited till the World Championships, he would have gone into the 14:30's.
Just 2 weeks later Kieren went to the world championships, and despite being sick, won the 400m in world record time (3:43.80) treating it like a sprint event. Fellow Australian swimmer Daniel Kowalski looked up at Kieren way ahead and feared he was swimming badly, till he looked back and saw the other swimmers were all in a line with him. Even Kieren was impressed. " I was in awe of myself!" he gasped. He had won the event by a larger margin that anyone else in world championships history! Kieren battled high temperatures and nausea, but still managed to win the 1500m in 14:50, which is faster than anyone else has ever gone. Kieren also won at the 1995 Pan Pacs.
At the 1996 Olympic Trials, Kieren was very sick. He had viruses, iron imbalances, you name it, he had it. He was so sick he swam horrific swims. He finished 3rd in the 400m (where he held the world record) and so didn't make the team. He managed to finish 2nd in the 1500m and made the team, and the whole of Australia breathed a sigh of relief. For 2 weeks after the trials Kieren was so lethargic he could not train. A few months later when he went to the Olympics nobody thought Kieren could possibly win. (Except me, that is.) All the media had totally written him off, predicting Daniel Kowalski was going to win. When the swimming team took off for Atlanta the media were busy with the 'gold medal chances' and Kieren snuck onto the plane unnoticed. They didn't even consider him a medal chance. He tried to make them think otherwise and it was beginning to work- until it was time for his heat. For some reason Kieren couldn't breathe, got pains down his side, and couldn't make his turns properly. He swam a 15:21 (40 sec. outside his best time) and qualified in last spot. If he'd been a few hundreths of a second slower he wouldn't have made the final. KIEREN SINKS was the front page story of Australian newspapers the day of his final. A comeback of this magnitude was deemed impossible. Everybody thought he was dead and gone. Nobody could get up from here! But the next day Kieren showed them all. He just swam so fast the others broke behind him. He swam a 14:56 to win the gold by 15 m. 2nd placed Daniel Kowalski (Australia) swam 15:03.
"That has got to be the hardest thing I have ever done in my life" said Kieren. "..But I just had to do it. I don't think it would have mattered if one of my arms fell off, I just had to get after it". Teammate and training partner Hayley Lewis (herself a World Champion and Olympic medallist) cried and said "He's just such a great champion. Everyone in Australia should get up in the morning and kiss the ground he walks on. He is the greatest swimmer in history and the greatest person as well. Australia is very lucky to have him."
Kieren could have easily retired after Atlanta with his legendary status intact. However he risked everything and kept training for the Sydney 2000 Olympics.
Unfortunately fate was not kind and for the next 4 years Perkins suffered illness at every major meet. The media constantly told him he was past it and should retire. He was given little chance of making the 2000 Olympic team, even the week of the 2000 Olympic trials many people thought he would not. But Perkins' persistence paid off as he easily made the Australian Olympic team in the 1500m freestyle event.
At the 2000 Olympics Kieren further cemented himself as the greatest distance swimmer of all time, winning silver in the 1500m freestyle, to make him the first person in history to win 3 consecutive Olympic medals in the 1500, of any colours. Kieren was only the 3rd man in history to win 2 gold and 1 silver in the one swimming event (the greatest dominance achieved by any man in a swimming event), both of the others being in the 100m freestyle. However of these 3, only Perkins left still holding the world and Olympic records in his event. Until he and Alex Popov did it in 2000, no one had achieved the feat since 1924.
Even the harshest critics regard him as the greatest distance swimmer, and Australia's greatest male Olympian, in history. Kieren is without doubt one of the greatest and most dominating swimmers of all time.
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