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Showdowns of the Games: Perkins vs Hoffmann
Man of the Moment takes it in his stride (20/07/92)

Sports Illustrated- Olympic Preview Issue 1992

Kieren Perkins vs Jorg Hoffman

KierenThe news out of Germany is that Jorg Hoffman, the world champion in the 1,500-metre freestyle was dreadful in the country's Olympic swim trials, dog-paddling his way to a 15:15.93 clocking--25.57 seconds off his best time. In the 400 he failed to qualify altogether. Washed up at 22?

"He's playing possum," says John Carew, the coach of 18-year-old Kieren Perkins. Australia's latest Superfish, who has had experience with Hoffmann's gamesmanship.

Hoffman is a 6' 7" aspiring architect from Potsdam who is clearly very impressed with himself. A typical Hoffmannism:- "I always ask myself where others find the courage to swim against me." In January 1991 after he arrived in Perth for the world championships. Hoffmann was told that Perkins and his teammate Glen Housman had swum under 15 minutes in the 1,500. Hoffmann suggested that the times had been fabricated. Then he collided with Perkins during warmups, "His hip hit my elbow," says Perkins in what the Australians saw as an attempt to psych out Perkins.

In the Perth 1,500 Perkins touched in 14:50.58--a whopping 4.14 seconds faster than the old world record, but .22 of a second slower than the new one, which had just been set in an adjacent lane by Hoffmann. After the race Hoffmann flipped the crowd the bird. Perkins attempted to congratulate him, to which Jorg replied, "I am World Champion".

Poor turns cost Perkins that race. "If it was a straight 1,500-metre pool, I'd probably have beaten him by 30 seconds," he says. Perkins has since improved his turns. He broke Hoffman's record by 1.96 seconds on April 5. He has also set long-course world records in the 400 and 800.

For his part Hoffmann has yet to swim as fast as he did in Perth. Why the letdown? "Nothing much happened after Perth," says Hoffmann. "It was easy to reach the point where I took it easy. Perkins gave me new motivation."

Perkins to Hoffmann: It's mutual.

Kieren wins gold in Barcelona 1992

[Of course, Kieren Perkins won the Olympic gold in Barcelona in a new world and Olympic record of 14:43.48. Hoffman came 3rd with 15:03. And anyway, Hoffman should never have beat Perkins. He has since admitted he was on steroids.]


20 Jul 1992, The Sydney Morning Herald

BARCELONA, Monday: There were 10 other top officials, coaches and athletes, including a couple of gold medallists, on the dais.

But the microphones, the cameras and the questions of the world's media were almost all directed at just one man: Australia's triple world swimming record holder Kieren Perkins.

For 40-minutes or so, King Kieren held court, feeding Japanese, American, British and, yes, Australian chooks with answers to questions familiar and fantastic. Nothing phased him, not even the one about the pain in the private parts.

How many stitches did you have in your leg when you fell through a plate glass window as a nine-year old? "87".

How big are you? "um, 193cm and 85-kilos. Six foot three and I don't know how many pounds."

Why are you so good? "I train hard."

But has anyone done any physiology tests done on you to find out? "I have a good heart."

What goes through your mind when you're swimming 1,500m? "Heaps. A song I might have been listening to on my Walkman. The crowd and where my parents might be sitting. You've got 15 minutes to think whatever you want, but 99 per cent of it is about the race."

Is it true you once stopped in the middle of the race to check your time on electronic board? "Yes." ( It happened at the Pan Pacific Championships in 1991 when Perkins broke the 800m record during a 1,500m race.)

Does swimming hurt? "Yes."

Everywhere? "Well, not exactly everywhere."

And so it went on, broken only by the occasional query directed at Perkins's eminent teammates such as Samantha Riley and Linley Frame, and gold medallists John Sieben and Duncan Armstrong, and his great 1,500m rival, Glen Housman.

"Me, I'm happy just to be the underdog," admitted Housman.

But if Perkins was unhappy at being rated the top dog-going for gold in the 1,500, 400m and 200m individual freestyle and the 4x200m relay races-he showed no signs of it.

The attention did become "a bit overwhelming at times," he confessed and of the hype he added: "The trouble is the more you talk to the press the more you're likely to believe it."

The trouble is, most people here really do believe it. As Australian team manager John Coates says: "A golden era has arrived for Australian swimming."

PETER BOWERS reports that the possibility of having to compete internationally with drug assisted swimmers is something Perkins has learnt to live with because there is absolutely nothing he can do about it.

Perkins bought into the drug issue during the press conference after Armstrong, Olympic 200m freestyle champion and a member of the 4x200m men's freestyle relay, was asked about the additional pressure of having to compete against swimmers in Barcelona who could be on drugs.

"I don't think anybody really worries about that," Armstrong said.

"Swimming is a fairly clean sport as they go. There's much thought given to the drug problem by us."

Perkins, from the other end of the table, took up the issue forcefully: "What can you do about it, though?

"If someone doesn't get caught, what can you do? Go and have a cry to yourself? That's not going to help."

Pressed about his personal attitude about athletes who took drugs, Perkins said: "What does it matter what I think about it? There's no point."

Sieben, the 200m butterfly gold medallist at Los Angeles, joined in: "You can't stop the guy beside you doing what he's going to do. All you can do is prepare yourself the best you can. You utilise your lane to the best of your ability.

"I can't see how it (drugs) would benefit swimming to a great deal. Swimming seems to be more of a style sport. Nothing beats good old hard work.