There are 3 articles on this page:
Even Kieren was stunned (11/09/94)
'Troubled' Perkins still a class above (13/09/94)
Kieren Perkins already up there with Bradman (19/09/94)
September 11, 1994, The Sydney Morning Herald
Olympic champion Kieren Perkins, who added the 400m freestyle world record to his 800m and 1500m freestyle world marks with a phenomenal swim yesterday at the World Championships, said he was in total awe of his performance.
But coach John Carew believed Perkins could produce an even more awesome swim in the 1500m early tomorrow morning, predicting a time around the 14:30's.
Perkins broke the 800 and 1500m world records 15 days ago at the Commonwealth Games, clocking 14:41.66 over the longer distance.
If he repeats the domination he showed in the 400m race over the longer distance the world record will be seriously threatened, but the Queenslander was not as confident as his coach that he could back up for a serious crack at it in 2 days.
"All the components are there for me to swim fast," he said.
"The 1500m is a difficult race. It is hard for me to say whether I can hang on enough to do a world record but at this stage I am confident I can get up and win it."
"I have no doubts I should be able to get close to what I did at Commonwealths but really at this stage I don't think I can break it. I don't feel I have recovered enough to handle 1500m of really maximum effort swimming."
Nerveless, Perkins said he could identify with the sentiment of the golfer Greg Norman after the British Open when he said he was amazed at his own result.
"It is probably not the way I would put it, but I would have to agree," said Perkins of his most recent swim which slashed 1.2 sec from the record held by Russian Evgeny Sadovyi and left 2nd place getter Antti Kasavio of Finland 5 seconds behind.
Perkins was under world record pace from the first lap, with 100m splits of 55.96, 1:51.11 and 2:48.15. Fellow Australian Daniel Kowalski was 4th, 2 sec behind bronze medallist Danyon Loader. Perkins' swim was revolutionary in that he turned the event into a sprint rather than a distance race, even though his best distance is 1500m.
"When I hit the wall and saw 3:43.80 I thought 'oh, not too bad, that's under the world record,' but a few seconds later it hit me, I had leapfrogged the 44's," Perkins said. "I just can't believe it. I never expected I would go that fast. The time has just blown me away."
Perkins, 21, said the result, his 11th world record, came even though he didn't feel good in the water.
He also said it came without the use of a performance enhancing drug - a reference to accusations from the Canadian camp. Perkins said he had heard rumours that he had been booked into a Sydney hospital for blood doping - a form of cheating where the body is replenished with extra blood cells from past donations.
"I just laugh at those accusations," he said. "It is ridiculous because we are constantly tested out of competition and in competition. Without a doubt Australian swimmers are the cleanest in the world. I've had 8 tests in the last 12 months, and two of those were out of competition."
Perkins said he was keen to prove a point to Carew in the 400m freestyle, his second event behind the 1500m at these championships.
His coach had been worried that the world records at the Commonwealth Games, where Perkins had defied him and continued at world record pace after the 800m mark, would be detrimental to his form in Rome.
"In the past few days I tended to agree with him and I was worried about my form," he said "but after my relay swim I knew that I was in shape, and I had no doubt I would do well."
The phenomenal Kieren Perkins once again smashed the magic 15min barrier for the 1500m but was just off his own world record pace after suffering bronchitis before his world championship victory at the Foro Italico Pool yesterday.
Perkins' main rival Daniel Kowalski also clocked a sub-15min time, although he was also ill. At the end of the race Kowalski dramatically collapsed near the diving pool.
"I told him before the race it wasn't worth killing himself for world championship silver because he could have suffered some permanent damage but he appears to have got through it OK, although he looks terrible," said Perkins, who clocked 14:50.52, his 10th time under 15min.
"I know myself that I thought I would be before the race - I was even thinking of going for a time - but 25m into the race I knew I was in trouble."
Perkins led the field in his trademark style, but from the initial 100m he was off his world record pace by about a second.
He sped up at the 500m mark, but was unable to break his own world record.
3rd place getter Steffe Zessner said he wasn't aware of the Australians' sickness.
"I have even more respect for their performances now," Zessner said. "But to be honest I was racing for the bronze because I knew I wouldn't be able to beat either of them."
Perkins, 21, now possesses every major championship title and record for the 1500m freestyle.
He is the first person in history to hold the world, Olympic, Pan Pacific and Commonwealth titles plus world record for the one event.
"Australia has had a lot of legendary swimmers over the years and events have stopped a lot of others [from a similar feat]," Perkins said.
"I've had no boycotts, wars or things to keep me away from meets and I'm also very proud to have achieved it."
19 Sep 1994, The Age
Walter Lindrum; Donald Bradman; Dawn Fraser; Herb Elliott; Margaret Court; Rod Laver; Peter Thomson. These are the foundation stars in Australia's galaxy of international sport. There are others, of course, but these are the brightest.
The unrelenting temptation to aficionados is to promote prematurely to sport's Milky Way. Greg Norman, Shane Warne, Pat Cash have been nominated in recent times. As of this moment, they don't reach the criteria demanded of sporting greatness. Time, injury and his own head seems to have rendered Cash ineligible. Time and opportunity are still available to Norman and Warne, although the former appears to be running out of both.
All of the foundation members were around at the highest level for many years. If they weren't exactly invincible in the toughest competitions, they were close to it.
But to earn their exalted position in the minds and hearts of those in Australia and around the world who followed their achievements with rabid interest they had to be something more than superb exponents of their sports. They had to be seen by the public as people of outstanding character as well as outstanding talent. Some of Bradman's peers might not have found him a warm and compassionate human being but he was beloved, even idolised, by the cricket public. Dawn Fraser might have been the bane of swimming administrators of her time but as Arthur Tunstall has proved so conclusively recently, administrators are in a race of their own for which there are no medals. In the era in which she became the first swimmer to win gold in the same event in three successive Olympics she had a popularity rating that would make Alexander Downer salivate and even Paul Keating wish.
And now the galaxy boasts a new member. His name is Kieren Perkins. He is 21 years of age, by far the youngest Australian sports person to earn the ultimate accolade. At 21, no one has been deemed to have been around long enough, or achieved the quality and quantity of performance and character to be voted in to the imaginary highest echelon of sport's hall of fame.
Yet this extraordinary young man qualifies on every count. What he has done since he departed for Barcelona as warm favorite for the Olympic 1500 metres freestyle has scarcely been equalled, let alone topped, in the proud annals of Australian sport.
He won that Olympic title, thereby setting himself up for fame and fortune provided he could maintain not only his athletic superiority but also the commonsense so difficult to detect in many modern sporting heroes.
There is something else. Perkins might be one of the most sensational swimmers ever to step into a pair of Speedos but he remains a normal, average young man. He has every right not to be, for goodness' sake.
He is the champion of the world at 400 metres and 1500 metres. He holds the world records for 400, 800 and 1500 metres. Two of those he set in one swim in the Commonwealth Games, thus giving that tournament a degree of credibility it might otherwise have lacked.
The future holds deeds so beyond accepted beliefs that there is nobody, not even his coach, John Carew, who is willing to predict them. Perkins himself believes that he has eight years in front of him to mangle his existing records, to take them into a new dimension, certainly a new era. He says this matter of factly, in such an unaffected way that you know that it is no boast, only an honest explanation of what he feels his body and his mind can do in the pool.
Amateur sport being what it is these days - non-existent - Perkins is well on his way to being a millionaire, if he isn't there already.
Presumably, the possibilities for increased financial reward for stellar sporting performers will grow enormously in the next eight years, which will leave Perkins in the deserved position of being an extremely rich young man. Shortly after the Barcelona triumph his father handed over the burgeoning KP business portfolio to one of those entrepreneurial organisations whose initials are short, whose contracts are fat and whose commission is commensurate with the size of the empire.
Just the other day, a marketing man who has nothing to do with Perkins but would obviously like to suggested that these days Kieren was in a position to be demanding a minimum $100,000 for any endorsement by word or deed.
If Shane Warne has a million-dollar deal with Nike - as he does - then the sums being talked up by Perkins' agents must be staggering. The point is all this seems to have made not one iota of difference to the mild and affable character of the man destined to become perhaps the biggest name in Australian sport.
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