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Slow pool can't slow record breaking Kieren (15/02/92)
How much faster, Kieren? (01/03/92)
February 15, 1992, The Sydney Morning Herald
Despite swimming in a so called slow pool, Kieren Perkins smashed his own world record in the 800m freestyle at Blacktown last night.
Swimming in the final at the NSW State Championships, the 18-year-old's time of 7:46.60 was 1.25 sec under the world record he set at the Pan Pacs last August.
When he touched at the finish, incredulous officials pointed to the fact that the Blacktown Memorial Pool is known as a slow one because of its design and poor wash runoff.
Perkins said he could have gone faster in a more suitable pool. "It definitely isn't one of the faster pools, it's very shallow most of the way and when the other guys dropped back I could feel their waves hit me."
His coach, John Carew, who has based Perkins' technique on the great distance swimmer Murray Rose, said "I don't like putting pressure on him, but I've got to concede he's going to be one of the greats, no doubt."
Perkins has now broken the 800m world record twice and in Canberra recently he broke the 1500m shortcourse world record.
It was obvious by the first 300m last night, when Perkins was already ½ a pool ahead of arch-rival Glen Houseman and ½ a sec inside the world record, that this was going to be an extraordinary swim.
At 500m he was 1 second inside the world record and the crowd, sensing it was going to see the first world record in Australia by an Australian since 1979, rushed to the pool edge to urge him on.
Perkins revealed later that when he looked up at the clock at 600m, he misread the time and thought he was going a lot slower.
"It kicked me off," he said.
Houseman finished 2nd but well behind Perkins with 8:15.64, almost 30sec slower.
Earlier in the evening Perkins had won the 200m freestyle in 1:53.20.
The more Perkins wins, the more expectations grow that he is our next swimming messiah.
But the public's expectations didn't worry him, Perkins said, because his own expectations were always higher.
"At this stage, I don't think I'd have a limit on how far I think I can go."
"Every time I go into a race the time I set myself always seems to be a few seconds faster than what I actually do, even though the rest of the world seems pretty surprised and amazed at the time I've done."
Perkins swam a usual heavy 86km in training last week, just as other Olympic swimmers are doing before they ease off for the Australian Championships in April.
So just how much faster can Perkins go when he has tapered off for an event?
Perkins said "I'll go faster."
How much faster?
"I can't say. With every swim I do, I go faster."
Webmaster's Note: On measuring the pool to ratify the world record, it was found that the pool was 5cm longer than 50m. Imagine how fast he would have swum if he'd swum 800m instead of 800.8m!
01 Mar 1992, The Sun Herald
WHEN Kieren Perkins touched the electrified pad at the Blacktown pool earlier this month to signal a world record 800m swim, the place erupted.
He was mobbed by hundreds of autograph seekers and hailed a superfish.
His 7.46.60 took him to a plateau only he has been allowed to stand upon.
In fact, of the 10 fastest swims over the half-mile trip, Perkins has registered five of them.
You could hear the confidence in his post-race press conference. The confidence that comes from someone who now knows he is special yet flaunts it in the most appropriate manner.
"I hope that word of this gets to Germany and Jorg Hoffmann as quickly as possible," Perkins said.
Hoffmann is the only man capable of staying with Perkins over the 1500m, the distance the pair will compete over at the Barcelona Olympics in July.
The huge German proved that when he beat Perkins at the 1991 World Swimming Championships and set a world record in doing so.
Let's not forget, though, he beat Perkins by the size of the 18-year-old's thumbnail - and that was before Perkins had smashed three world records.
Now people are asking two pertinent questions:
1. Has Kieren Perkins, like others before him, peaked too soon for Barcelona - especially when you consider the games are six months away and no man or woman can hold a peak for six months?
2. If he hasn't peaked too soon, could it be that he is something beyond that - a superstar the likes of which has never been seen before?
As lovers of sport, everyone would prefer the latter to be true. To anticipate the emergence of a champion of champions is a wonderful thing.
In the form of Kieren Perkins, a young man who has dumbfounded age-old training routines, we may, just may, have one in our own backyard.
Legendary American Mark Spitz won seven gold medals at the 1972 Munich Olympics and has reasonably been touted the greatest swimmer of all time. His reign, though, was with the sprinters.
Soviet superstar Vladimir Salnikov held sway with the distance fraternity for what seemed a lifetime and, incidentally, it is his record that Perkins originally knocked over in the 800m. He still is, despite his last record falling, the flagbearer of excellence in the art of distance swimming.
Perkins challenges that.
Not verbally, of course, but by sheer force of potential. He is breaking not only with tradition by swimming very fast while untapered and out of peaking season but by smashing world marks that have stood the test of time. People who know about these things have been called together for a summit on the aforementioned questions relating to Kieren Perkins of Queensland.
And these people should know. They are legends.
TRACEY WICKHAM: former dual world record holder and Commonwealth Games gold medallist.
"There is nothing wrong with his peak. I can remember breaking world records six months before the Commonwealth Games and winning.
"He hasn't been burnt out like some other guys. He has been handled well and, believe me, he is mentally and, now, physically tough enough to handle it.
"And he seems to really love getting out there and flogging guys. I think he'll knock them out in Barcelona and I believe even then we won't be seeing him at his best.
"By Atlanta in 1996 the real Kieren Perkins will stand up. He'll be a real whiz there.
"The tag of greatest of all time is hard to give him right now because there have been some great swimmers - like Dawn Fraser and Murray Rose - but I think we might be seeing it in Kieren.
"If he wins the treble in Barcelona, and I think he has the potential to do so, I think he may well be the best ever. Already he is in a class of his own. I think he's a phenomenon and he is still only a baby."
MURRAY ROSE: Olympic champion over 400m (twice) and 1500m.
"I saw him at the Worlds in Perth but I don't have any inside info on how his training is progressing, so I'm a little hesitant to comment.
"My sense of him, though, is that he has not peaked yet.
"It's a double-edged sword but I'd find in favour of him and I respect what he is doing. He is announcing, and rightfully so, to the world that he is about and getting the exposure he deserves.
"I am very impressed with what I've seen of him. As for the greatest, well, I don't want to put that sort of pressure on him. It's a call I'm unwilling to make at this stage but I will say this for him: he has something I've never seen before and it is a powerful weapon to take into the Olympics.
"He can change gears during a 1500m swim and that makes him a heck of a swimmer. He is certainly a phenomenal prospect and he has the ability to be the best of all time.
"You really have to carry to the Olympics a degree of maturity because it is like no other competition on Earth. If he wins there he'll be great."
LAURIE LAWRENCE: swim coach of Olympic champions.
"For me to answer any of your questions is difficult because I'm training a guy (Duncan Armstrong) to beat him in the 200m and 400m.
"But, if you break it down, we haven't had a swimmer who can do what he is doing before the national trials. Now, looking at him purely analytically, he has this ability to sprint, which is a distance swimmer's best weapon, and that is unheard of in Olympic history.
"But the Olympics are so tough, the toughest arena there is. Remember Shane Gould held the world records in the 100m and 800m and she was beaten in those races at the Olympics.
"But if this kid can improve like Duncan did in Los Angeles, then the sky is the limit. On paper Murray Rose is our greatest swimmer ever. However, you don't need to be Einstein to realise that Kieren has the potential to be the greatest."
JON SEIBEN: former world butterfly record holder.
"Kieren is mentally tough enough to win in Barcelona. He has a mental resolve that can handle this type of pressure. I think he and his coach, John Carew, can work out how to swim even faster by the time the Olympics come around.
"Remember, in swimming you only get one chance and that only comes around every four years at the Olympics. So you must get your taper just right. You cannot afford to be one or two days out. I think they will get it right."
JOHN CAREW: Kieren's coach.
"I'm just hoping there is not too much media pressure on him before the trials. I've heard the talk about him peaking too soon and I ask you, how can someone doing 86km a week be taperering? You can't.
"When we go for records it is only discussed after he warms up. If he was tapering now and swimming that fast yes I would be concerned. But he is swimming fast and is NOT tapering. He is holding his times better in his races now and that is why he is swimming so fast.
"As for the Olympics, I hope he makes it. I believe he will and when there I'd like to see him win everything he goes in, which would hopefully be the 200m, 400m and 1500m.
"But we saw what happened to Stephen Holland in 1976 and I don't want too much pressure put on him. If he can win the Olympics he will probably be our greatest swimmer of all time."
JOHN DEVITT: former Olympic sprint champion.
"I do not believe Perkins has reached his potential.
"He has the ability to begin a race at a fast pace and to maintain it through the event," Devitt said.
While the former greats have been lavish in their praise of Perkins'performance in lowering the world 800m record, Australian swimming chief coach DON TALBOT injected a note of realism into the euphoria.
"People are touting Kieren as the the greatest distance swimmer of all time but that is premature," Talbot said.
"Potentially he is a great swimmer but the people who are handing out the compliments did not come through the era of John Konrads, Murray Rose and Bobby Windle, each an Olympic 1500 metres champion.
"They could all swim very fast at the shorter distances. Konrads and Rose held world records from 200 metres to 1500 metres.
"Rose won the 400 and 1500 metres events at the Melbourne Olympics, then collected gold again in the 400 at Rome four years later where Konrads won the 1500 metres gold.
"There is no doubt Perkins has the potential to be a great swimmer. He is on track but I am just a little scared that, with so many telling him he is so great, he will start believing his own publicity.
"To say he is the best in the world before he goes to the Olympic Games means he is getting all the rewards and accolades before he wins anything that is significant.
"I don't want this to be a distraction for him.
"I admire him a lot but to put the mantle of greatness on him now is premature.
"Realistically the Germans, Jorg Hoffmann and Stefan Pfeiffer, and Glen Houseman will not let him dominate the event.
"I believe people have become confused over Kieren's world record for 800 metres. This is not an Olympic event and the tactics are vastly different for the 1500 metres event."
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