Copyright 2002 Nationwide News Pty Limited
The Gold Coast Bulletin

July 25, 2002, Thursday

Keeping up with Kieren
KIEREN Perkins is about to return to the world of bleary-eyed mornings,
 breakfasts-on-the-run and takeaway espressos.
 The dual Olympian and former world champion figured those days were long
 behind him two years after he retired from competitive swimming and moved from
 Brisbane to Sydney.
   But a two-week stint as host of the morning show during the 2002 Commonwealth
 Games means the 29-year-old is about to dig out his old alarm clock.
   "I miss the camaraderie of swimming and the people and the competition but I
 don't miss the early mornings," says Perkins, who will co-host the breakfast
 program with Johanna Griggs and will also host Today at the Games daily from
   "I am going to have to get my body-clock on Manchester time, which will be
   Perkins is part of a 38-strong commentary team for the Games but will stay in
 Australia, where his programs will be broadcast from Melbourne.
   He is also tipped to stay on with Seven until Athens 2004.
   But this is the first major hosting gig for the man of many professions.
   Since his retirement, Perkins has managed to hold down several positions
 including board member for the Australian Sports Commission and the Starlight
 Foundation and chairman of the Australian Swimming Board. Then there's the
 modern and antique furniture-importing business he runs with his wife, fashion
 model Symantha.
   Throw in the occasional public and corporate speaking engagement and it is
 clear Perkins is one former professional athlete who has had few problems making
 the transition to 'real life'.
   Still, he admits he is one of the lucky ones.
   "It is extremely hard to understand that your sporting career doesn't last
 forever when you are competing," says Perkins, who regularly counsels athletes
 as part of his position with the Australian Swimming Board.
   "I try and emphasise to the swimmers that they have to look beyond the fun
 and thrill of competing and remember that it will all end one day," says
   "Preserving their schooling is very important and so is the need to create a
 bit of a buffer with your sponsors, so that when they do stop swimming, there is
 a period where they still have an income to rely on while establishing a new
   Since his retirement, Perkins has also had the opportunity to sit back and
 observe the emergence of a new breed of swimmers as well as the increased
 dominance of Grant Hackett, to whom he relinquished his former 1500m world
 record back at the Sydney 2000 Olympics.
   Former enemies in the pool, Perkins is now good friends with Hackett and a
 big fan of the reigning world and Olympic champion, who he describes as 'a
 complete swimmer'.
   "Grant is a great guy. I'm looking forward to seeing how he goes in the 200m
 and 400m and the relays (4x100m and 4x200m freestyle) in Manchester," says
   "There's not much he can't do."
   But one event he will not miss will be the women's 4x200m freestyle relay.
 Perkins predicts revenge will be sweet for the Australian girls, who were
 disqualified at last year's world championships and handed over their gold medal
 to Britain.
   Perkins will co-host the Commonwealth Games morning show with Johanna Griggs
 from Sunday as well as Today At The Games from today (Thursday).
   'It is extremely hard to understand that your sporting career doesn't last
 forever when you are competing'

  The Daily Telegraph(Sydney)
  July 25, 2002, Thursday

The deep end - The challenge of going from sports star to TV star -
 Legends preaching what they practised

    The lure of a glamorous TV career puts stars in the eyes of many retired
 sports champions but do they have the talent to make the transition? KATRINA
 BEIKOFF looks at TV's Commonwealth Games debutants.

   It's not as simple as it looks, Kieren Perkins says about his new sports role
 as host of Seven's coverage of the Manchester Commonwealth Games.
    His words are a warning to the hundreds of young sports stars who think that
 when their athletic days are over, a media role is a given.
    This belief that the transition from sports star to TV star is a natural
 progression is given credence by the plethora of stars in commentary roles.
    Two faces synonymous with Australia at the Commonwealth Games -- dual
 Olympic gold medallist Perkins and 1995 world indoor 200m champion Melinda
 Gainsford-Taylor -- will host Seven's saturation broadcast.
    The former darling of the Commonwealth Games pool, Hayley Lewis, will
 conduct interviews poolside, while multiple gold medal-winning Hockeyroos
 captain Rechelle Hawkes will add her expert commentary as will nine-time
 Paralympic champion Priya Cooper.
    In fact, Seven's commentary team boasts more than 15 Olympic medals and 30
 Commonwealth medals, many from our most recent successes at Sydney and the 1998
 Kuala Lumpur Commonwealth Games.
    But is Seven's strategy of putting former athletes, people who have spent
 practically their whole lives being lean, mean athletic machines, in front of
 the camera to suddenly sparkle with wit and personality going to work?
    Media analysts claim Seven's team is designed to appeal to the under-40s,
 the viewing group in which big multi-sport events are traditionally weak (and
 which could be drawn to Ten's spoiler, Celebrity Big Brother).
    Even with the nightmarish nine-hour time difference -- it will demand
 serious sleep sacrifice from fans keen to see many live finals, including the
 Ian Thorpe medal blitz, scheduled between 3am and 6am -- Seven's 18 hours a day
 of action is expected to be a ratings winner.
    The 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur delivered Nine a ratings bonanza
 and at year's end, five of the top 10 spots in the national TV ratings were
 Commonwealth Games events. The men's 1500m freestyle, won by Grant Hackett,
 attracted more than three million viewers, taking out the top spot as the year's
 most watched television event.
    Seven's line-up is headed by Australia's premier sportscaster Bruce
 McAvaney. He is one of 35 commentators in Manchester, the others including
 athletics stars Raelene Boyle, Dave Culbert and Sebastian Coe, former swimming
 coach Don Talbot, Hayley Lewis and Priya Cooper.
    A unit of 170, including breakfast host Johanna Griggs, Perkins and
 Gainsford-Taylor, will remain in Melbourne.
    Perkins agrees the pressure is on the Games debutants to deliver. During his
 sporting career, Perkins says he might have considered a media job easy. After
 all, as an athlete he just had to turn up and answer a few questions or, in the
 guise of guest presenter, it was simply a matter of reading from the auto-cue.
    "I've learned now it's not a case of just turning up and doing it. The
 amount of work that goes into it really does surprise me," he concedes.
    Perkins says his role will be to provide an insight into the personalities
 of the champion swim team and the nuances of the sport -- the way an athlete
 swims, rather than the time just being fast or slow, their stroke, their
 breathing techniques and their tactics.
    "What I can offer, I think, is to give the inside running on what's going
 on," he says. "It will be from a reasonably unique position in that I'll be able
 to give an in-depth reading of what people are doing and feeling."
    The job will require ignoring some of the golden rules of an athlete's media
    "You spend so many years as an athlete on guard about what you say,
 protecting yourself and not wanting to be too controversial or say anything that
 would get you into trouble or cause problems for the sport," he says.
    "But coming over to the other side it is different. I won't be sanitising
 what I am thinking or what I say."