Commonwealth Games September 1998
Latest News (>May 1999...)
By Janelle Miles
KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 19 AAP - Moments after being beaten in the 1500m, Kieren Perkins told reporters poolside that his dream to win an historic third Olympic gold in Sydney 2000 was still alive.
And he said Grant Hackett, the young man who had just won the race, still had a lot to learn.
Perkins didn't enjoy getting his "butt kicked" at the Kuala Lumpur Commonwealth Games.
The 25-year-old had not been beaten at an international meet over the 1500m freestyle for nearly eight years. In KL he had to settle for bronze.
He clocked 15m:03s to finish behind Gold Coast gold medal winner Hackett and was pipped for silver by South African Ryk Neethling (15:02.98).
Perkins has not been close to his world record of 14:41.66 in four years but he had no thoughts of retirement after the race.
He's held a long-time dream to become the first male swimmer to win three consecutive Olympic gold in the one event and says that's still alive.
Asked whether he was confident he could get back down to his world record, he had no doubts.
"Of course," the dual Olympic champion said.
"If I've done it once, there's no reason why I can't do it again. I've cut 10 seconds off my time since the Games trials only a few months ago and I've had an upset preparation.
"I've got another 18 months until the Olympic trials to improve 23 seconds to get back down to the world record. I'm reasonably confident that will be more than enough time to do it."
Perkins said he felt strong through the race and refused to blame an energy-sapping bout of gastro about a week out.
But Australian head coach Don Talbot indicated Perkins may have been sicker than he's let on.
"I thought Kieren Perkins' swim was outstanding. I know more about him than you do. The tough time he's had with illness etcetera," Talbot said.
While Hackett's win asserts his world number one ranking over the gruelling 30 laps, Perkins said the 18-year-old still had a lot to learn.
"Grant's obviously the one at the moment who's leading the way and doing the times but I think he still lacks a lot of maturity in his racing," Perkins said.
"He went out hard and couldn't hold it up at the back end. I think that he still hasn't quite got a grasp of pacing his races yet. That's something that he's going to have to learn.
"It's probably a big ask to assume that in the next 18 months leading into the Olympic trials that he'll develop that talent on his own.
"But I think we'll probably see a situation where once I get back to racing near those sorts of times then that's when we'll see Grant taking major chunks off his best again."
Hackett was disappointed not to meet Perkins at his peak here.
"The thought in my head through the race was I wish Kieren was at his best and I wish I was next to him right now," the first-year university student said.
"I've actually said I would have liked to be swimming this fast a few years ago if only my parents made me a little bit earlier."
The King never dies
A month ago, Kieren's Commonwealth Games campaign was going perfect to plan. Sizzling world class times in the shortcourse pool signaled his comeback. However, since then nothing had gone to plan.
A bad bout of the flu confined him to bed for a week, and he did the barest minimum of work the week after. To fit in more work, a new, shorter taper had to be invented. Then, at the Games and a week out from his race, he got sick again. He also came out of his taper too soon, peaking 4 days before his race.
It was obvious that Kieren's illnesses had impacted, when in the 1500m heats he went through the 400 split 8 seconds slower than his coach told him to. He qualified in lane 6.
The final included the Olympic champion, world champion, Olympic silver medallist, Olympic bronze medallist and World bronze medallist.
For half the race, Kieren was coming 4th. Grant Hackett, in the best form of his life, had the lead. Daniel Kowalski, Atlanta silver medallist who had his best preparation ever, was in clear 2nd place. Ryk Neethling was in 3rd.
However the King never lies down and dies. Kieren edged up to Neethling, then overtook Kowalski. With 50 to go, Perkins was in 2nd place. Unfortunately he was just touched out by Neethling by 2/100ths of a second- "I guess he has longer arms than me". Kowalski was 4th.
Hackett, (who claimed he would break Kieren's world record) could only manage 14:50.98, to maintain him in the 7th fastest swim ever place. He failed to get into the 14:40's, territory only Perkins has swum.
Kieren said he was happy with his performance, given the circumstances. But next time he wants gold. "I'm never going to let this happen again."
However, it's a pretty good achievement, to have the full set of Commonwealth medals -gold, silver, bronze- for this event.
Sydney Morning Herald, Kuala Lumpur, Saturday 12/09/98
VIV RICHARDS sat next to Kieren Perkins as they waited to carry their country's flags in the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony last night and failed to recognise the Australian swimming champion. The feeling was mutual; Perkins did not know Richards either.
But they soon chatted and found common ground. It is the sort of experience the likes of Richards, Antigua's cricket coach here and one of the world's all-time great cricketers, is lapping up.
As for Perkins, Richards started to click when someone told him about the Australian. He was struck by Perkins' modesty. "He was such a lovely man. When he left, I asked one of the guys who came over and he said to me: `That's the guy everyone's chasing."
Rapt in the flag, Kieren shoulders a new responsibility
By JOHN HUXLEY in Kuala Lumpur, The Sydney Morning Herald
Such is the modesty of the man known to the nation as King Kieren that when he was called into the office of Australian Commonwealth Games team boss Don Stockins late on Wednesday evening he expected to be carpeted.
Perkins feared that he may have been spotted outside the athletes' village, giving an unauthorised media interview.
Instead, he was told that he had been chosen from the 321-strong team to carry the Australian flag at tonight's Opening Ceremony in the National Stadium at Bukit Jalil.
"It's a great surprise and a great honour - one that will make my Commonwealth Games experience complete," said Perkins, who competed at the two previous games, in New Zealand and Canada, but was prevented by competition schedules from even marching at either opening ceremony.
After telephoning wife Symantha, at home in Queensland with their one-year-old baby Georgia, Perkins admitted: "To be honest, I'm still stunned. I really didn't even think I was in with a chance. There's a couple of athletes and shooters who have outstanding service records over five or six games."
Perkins was nine when he began swimming as rehabilitation following a leg injury. Since then, he has gone on to become, at 25, not merely Australia's most successful swimmer, winning Olympic gold medals in the 1500m freestyle at Barcelona and Atlanta, but one of its greatest sporting ambassadors. Hence the unofficial monarchy.
For a games veteran such as Perkins, entering the main stadium - a towering, three-tiered amphitheatre, with seating for 100,000 - this evening will be like stepping into another world.
There has never been a Commonwealth Games like this - the first in Asia, the biggest, with 5,500 athletes from a record 70 nations, and the most expensive, with some $1.5 billion spent on state-of-the-art facilities.
By Janelle Miles
KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 9 AAP - Dual Olympic champion Kieren Perkins says he still goes to bed at night knowing he's the best in the world.
And he reckons that won't change whatever happens at the Commonwealth Games next week.
The 25-year-old has not come close to his best since the last Commonwealth Games in Victoria, Canada, four years ago where he set two world records in the 1500m freestyle - at the 800m mark and then when he finished.
He will go into the Kuala Lumpur Games as the underdog, not having broken 15 minutes over 1500m since his dramatic win from lane eight at the Atlanta Olympics two years ago.
But the triple world record holder, whose time of 14m41.66s is more than ten seconds faster than anyone else has ever managed, said whatever the outcome in KL he would not lose sight of his ultimate dream: to be the first man to win the same event at three successive Olympics.
"I know I'm the underdog going into KL from a public perception point of view because since Atlanta I haven't beaten the guys that I'm competing against," said Perkins, referring to Perth world champion Grant Hackett and Olympic silver medallist Daniel Kowalski.
"A lot more of the focus and the pressure and the attention is on their shoulders as it rightly should be.
"They're the favourites and they're the guys who've got the times on the board. But when I go to bed at night I still know that I'm the best and I will win in the end."
Perkins said he would going on believing that even if he doesn't win Commonwealth gold at KL.
"After some of the performances I've put in in the last couple of years, I'm a realist," said the father of one-year-old Georgia, named after the scene of his greatest triumph in Atlanta.
"But I've got a hell of a lot in reserve. I know I've got a hell of a lot of things that I'm going to have to do a lot better in the leadup to 2000 if I'm going to win and I know that I will do those things better."
Perkins, who took five months off after Atlanta and has struggled to find form since, said he planned to train "non-stop" during the next two years to achieve his goals in Sydney.
He's clearly planning to end his career on a history-making note but just how he plans to do it he is keeping to himself.
"I know personally what I want to achieve and they're goals that nobody else knows," he said.
"My coach doesn't know. My wife doesn't know. My parents don't know. I have those goals. I have those targets and I'll take them with me until I touch the wall."
Hackett has taken over from Perkins as the world number one in the gruelling 30 lap event after his 14m51.70s victory at last January's Perth world championships, a time that makes him the third fastest ever behind Perkins and German Jorg Hoffmann.
But Hackett is yet to think in the same vein as the Olympic champion .
Asked whether he thinks about being the best in the world when he slips into his sheets at night, he said: "Never. I'm just a human being going to bed."
By Wayne Smith, The Daily Telegraph
World Champion swimmer Grant Hackett has apparently hit such a slump his coach conceded he is no longer a dominant force going into the Commonwealth Games.
Daniel Kowalski has just come out of the isolation ward.
And Kieren Perkins is playing the wide-eyed innocent.
There is only one thing Perkins does better than swim the 1500m freestyle at major events and that's playing around with the minds of his rivals beforehand.
He did it brilliantly at the Atlanta Games in 1996 when he psyched out Kowalski.
"And I have the silver medal to prove it," said a rueful Kowalski yesterday.
He was at it again yesterday, putting on his most innocent face as he teasingly tweaked the confidence of the two men who stand between him and the successful defence of his Commonwealth title in Kuala Lumpur on September 17.
While Hackett's coach Denis Cotterel was talking down his swimmer's prospects and Kowalski was talking up his chances, Perkins, eyes a-twinkling mischievously, was cutting the ground from under both of them.
Told Cotteral had given Hackett the morning off to help him recover from residual muscle soreness brought on by overtraining in a desperate attempt to make up for weeks of flu-induced lost work, Perkins had no hesitation in dismissing it all as a pre-race ploy.
"I've no doubts," he said. "Grant's in the middle of his taper and you expect to fall into a hole in the middle of your taper. That's what a taper's for. That's the way it works. There are still 11 or so days to go before the 1500m and I think he's got more than enough time to be up and firing again."
But while he recognised the professionalism in Cotteral's approach, he wasn't buying it.
"I've got no doubt there isn't going to be any incredible dramas midway through taper that's going to mess up anyone's chances when it comes to race day," he said.
Kowalski came to his press conference perky and upbeat, claiming the one advantage he had over Perkins and Hackett was that he had enjoyed a consistent, hassle free preparation to these games.
"No disruptions, no sickness, no injuries- and it's enabled me to get a good base down, whereas they had to start, then stop, then start up again," said Kowalski.
What Kowalski didn't know was that Perkins had already spilled the beans on him, telling the media how Kowalski had fallen sick last week and had to spend time in the isolation room.
"Which was probably right on cue for Daniel because he did his best time at the 1994 world championships when he was sick," said Perkins.
Kowalski, who had intended not mentioning the setback, was forced to confront it, acknowledging he had been isolated from his teammates for 3 days.
"Air conditioning doesn't agree with me and I had a really bad build up- all the aches and fevers," he said.
© News Limited
By Janelle Miles
SINGAPORE, Sept 6 AAP - Dual Olympic gold medallist Kieren Perkins accused world champion Grant Hackett and his coach Denis Cotterell of cat and mouse tactics today as the psychological warfare surrounding next week's Commonwealth Games 1500m freestyle final began in ernest.
Hackett unexpectedly missed training and a scheduled news conference this morning for a sleep-in, leaving Cotterell to explain problems with the teenager's preparation that have left him fatigued.
Cotterell said the 18-year-old had lost ground in training coming into Singapore after two bouts of the 'flu, which had upset his buildup for the Kuala Lumpur Games.
"It's a worrying time," said the man who has coached Hackett since he was seven.
"We haven't had this much of an upset in a preparation so close. It's been hard to try to get everything back together. The recipe book's gone."
But Perkins said it was not unusual for a swimmer to fall into a "hole" midway through his taper - the process whereby swimmers gradually reduce their training to rest their bodies in the leadup to a competition.
Asked whether the Hackett camp was simply playing cat and mouse, the 25-year-old replied: "I've got no doubt whatsoever.
"I'm sure Denis is doing all he can to take the pressure off his young man. That's good. I think Grant's got enough riding on his shoulders as it is being the favourite going into the event.
"But I've got no doubt that there isn't going to be any incredible dramas midway through tapers that's going to completely mess up anybody's chances when it comes to race day.
"With 11 or 12 days to go until the 1500, Grant's got more than enough time to be up and firing again."
Perkins' own preparations have been disrupted by illness, keeping him out of the water for five days before the team flew to Singapore late last month and the master of mind games was mirroring Cotterell's tactics today.
"I'm still in a bit of no man's land with the 'flu that I had," Perkins said.
"My coach John Carew had to change my taper around quite a bit. Because of that, to a certain degree we are flying in blind.
"It's a matter of getting in there on race day and giving it 100 per cent and hoping it falls into place."
Some observers would say this could be the race that will make or break Perkins' long-held dream of becoming the first male swimmer to win three gold in the same event at successive Olympics come Sydney 2000.
But a relaxed looking Perkins said he'd never felt so stress-free leading into a meet, his first big international in two years and his first big contest against Hackett at that level.
"In comparison to Atlanta, there's absolutely no pressure at all," he said.
"I'm more relaxed now than I have ever been leading into a competition. It's a bit odd considering how under-prepared I am."
Canberra-based Daniel Kowalski refused to be sucked into the mind games today.
The Olympic silver medallist has gone into major international meets rated favourite in the past after beating Perkins at the Australian championships only to be demolished by the Queenslander when it counted.
In Atlanta, he was widely tipped to win gold after Perkins only scraped into the final by 0.23s but he was again blown away by the Perkins might.
"I don't know if bluff is the right word but ... it was a mind boggling performance," Kowalski recalled today.
"Still to this day it's incredible. As much as I hated coming second, I think if there was any event to come second in, that was the one.
"It basically showed what he was made of.
"I don't care if he's been sick for two or three weeks in his preparation for KL, it doesn't matter because he's shown that he can do it. If anyone knows that, I do because I have the silver medal at home to prove it."
The swimmers will leave Singapore for KL on Tuesday, three days before the opening ceremony.