The Sydney Morning Herald, July 31 1992
Barely 20min before the start of one of the greatest races of his life, Kieren Perkins is sitting alongside the indoor warmup pool tickling the soles of Lisa Curry-Kenny's feet, while she lies on the table receiving a massage. The scene around him is a buzz of activity and adrenalin as other swimmers put in a last few laps preparing for their finals later in the evening.
Outside, the crowd chatters in anticipation. High in the main stand, Perkins' teammates, led by Angela Mullens, are holding a huge banner: 'KIEREN PERKINS WALKS ON WATER'
Back home, where it is coming up to 2am, Australia expects nothing else, 10min earlier, the man with a nation's medal hopes on his shoulders had, at least, walked out of the water after the last of a dozen loosener laps.
Perkins stretches out languilly for a final rubdown. Other Australian swimmers and officials stand around him, like relatives at a christening. Perkins' coach John Carew twists and grinds his hat. Nicole Stevenson essays a few strokes in the air. Head coach Don Talbot stands by silently, grimly. Little Joanne Mehann flits around nervously.
It's 5:35pm local time: Perkins rises. Stretches. Weighs himself. Yawns.
He wraps a gold/orange towel round him, zips up his Australian tracksuit top, and sits down. While he kids with Lisa Curry-Kenny, he is joined by Linley Frame and Phil Rogers. Frame puts her arm around the shoulders of the two men and they pose for a photograph.
14min to the start: he changes his togs, slips a pair of grey shorts over them and puts on a pair of running shoes.
Perkins is asked to sign a program. He smiles and obliges, then disappears downstairs for his date with destiny, coach Carew all the time slapping his back.
A last few minutes to compose himself in the changing room, then at 5:56 he emerges into the sweltering open air stadium with the other 7 swimmers.
Everything starts happening in slow motion: a wave to the crowd as he introduces. He strips. He mounts the block. And then, suddenly, at 6pm precisely he enters the water.
Exactly 3min 45.16 sec it is all over. Perkins has swum 400m freestyle faster than ever before. But it is not good enough to win gold. Russian Evgeny Sadovyi has swum 0.16 sec faster.
Silver, not what he wanted but a satisfactory race to the ever optimistic Perkins.
"It was an amazing race. For 2 guys to beat the world record by 1½ seconds and almost 1½ seconds was incredible. I'm proud to have been a part of it."
"He's a good swimmer. A nice guy," said Perkins generously. The 400, he added, was now history.
"I can't afford to be disappointed. I've got another race to go yet."
ARTICLE INDEX - HOME - NEXT ARTICLE - PREVIOUS ARTICLE