Perkins News Archive September 2000

The King gets silver this time, but it's worth its weight in gold (23/09/00)

King Kieren swims 14:58 heat (22/09/00)

Perkins powers up (15/09/00)

Kieren: I can go out a winner (13/09/00)

Perkins arrives in Sydney (10/09/00)

Still The King (07/09/00)

Talbot says Perkins better than four years ago (05/09/00)

 The King gets silver this time, but it's worth its weight in gold


The King goes out on a highSeven years ago today, Sydney won the 2000 Olympic bid.

And Kieren Perkins, in Monaco to help win the bid, muttered the immortal words: "I will be there, I will be there."

And so he was.

And even if it was only a silver medal around his neck this time around, it was worth its weight in gold - and made Olympic history.

Seven years of triumph and ecstasy, dozens of major titles and world records, but also pain, illness and adversity.
A back from the dead performance in the 1500m at the Atlanta Olympics to defend his title from 1992, after being hit by illness at trials and missing qualifying for the 400m where he held the world record, then qualifying in last place for the final by only 0.22 sec. Perkins was only the 2nd person in history to win 2 consecutive titles in the gruelling 1500m event. On top of his previous achievements it entrenched him in his nation's psyche and has become the stuff of legend. He could have retired then secure in the knowledge that he would always be remembered as such, but Perkins is a brave man and remembered his vow. Kieren risked everything and kept on swimming for Sydney, his home country's Olympics.

Fate did not make it at all easy. For 4 years Perkins suffered illness after illness at major meets, a bronze at the Commonwealth Games all he had to show from multiple great beforehand preparations. One journalist said he couldn't beat an 'Ethiopian dog-paddler.' He was so ill at the 1999 Pan Pacs that he failed to make the 1500m final, most thinking this had been his last international race. Many said he should retire. Even during the Olympic Trials in May many thought he would not make the Olympic team. One betting agency opened bets on 'will Kieren Perkins make the 1500m freestyle Olympic final' feeling he would not.

But of course Kieren made the Olympic team. Kieren vowed to enjoy the Olympics as much as he could.
"It's been a long hard road for me," Kieren said yesterday. "But now it's been a magic carpet ride."

Kieren's magic carpet took him to the 1500m heats. He tried not to get excited - but couldn't help it. 18000 people screaming his - and only his - name, as if it were an Olympic final. And the man who had not broken 15 minutes since Atlanta swam 14:58.34 - in his heat.

"I didn't know I was going so fast, it seemed so easy," said a jubilant Perkins, who was so ecstatic after the heat it was as if he'd won the final. He admitted six months ago he'd been afraid he'd never break 15min again. It was the fastest 1500m heat swim in the event's history - too fast. This had been his 'final'. Perkins' recovery for the next day was not complete.

"This is my last swim. I'm just going to enjoy it," said Kieren. He had achieved every title, award, and record possible in his sport - most many times over. Unlike Atlanta, where Perkins put huge pressure on himself to show Barcelona was not a fluke, he had nothing to prove.

Perkins swam well, sticking at Hackett's feet throughout the duration of the race, but he did not have the energy after yesterday to sprint past him. However an Olympic silver is a great achievement, especially for someone who many expected would not make the Olympic team, much less win a medal. Perkins swam his way into history as the first person to ever win 3 consecutive medals in the 1500m event, of any colours. Only 2 other men have ever won 2 Olympic gold and a silver in the one swimming event - both of the others were in the 100m freestyle, and until Perkins and Popov did it at this Olympics, the last time it occurred was in 1924.

Of these 3, Perkins was the only one to leave still holding the world and Olympic records in his event. Hackett was almost 6 seconds outside Perkins' Olympic record and more than 8 seconds outside Perkins' world record. Perkins swam 14:53.59 to swim his second sub-15 minute swim in as many days. He was momentarily disappointed, but went over and congratulated Hackett emphatically. Kieren got out of the pool and was back to his old self again, ever perky, he displayed his famous grin, and sprang in front of the crowd, arms outstretched, jokingly leaping with joy as if he had just won 50 Olympic golds.

After the last event had been swum, a special event occurred. The Australian swimming team were going to send Kieren and teammate Susie O'Neill out on a high. They hoisted them on their shoulders and held them up to the adoring crowd - which roared its approval - to the strains of one of the Olympics' theme songs, 'Heroes Live Forever.' "The Australian swimming team thanks Kieren Perkins and Susie O'Neill" said the announcer.

And so they should. Kieren is widely credited as the cause of the recent resurgence in Australian swimming to a world power. He showed Australian swimmers that they could mix it with the best, he was the one that made swimming the 'must watch' event for all Australians that it has now become a major sport with massive audiences and legions of fans. And he was the one who kept Australian swimming afloat until his legacy had begun. In particular Hackett and Thorpe should thank him as he was the one who revolutionised the 400, 800 and 1500m swimming events, and ingrained both the 1500m event and himself in his nation's psyche. He has become an Australian icon and will go down in history as one of Australia's greatest ever sportspeople - a huge statement in the sports-mad nation.

Kieren's magic carpet ride hasn't finished yet. There is still a whole week of the Olympics for him to enjoy - without ever worrying about swimming training again. Then he can get on with his new life - with his greatest supporters, his wife and 2 young children. Kieren isn't too sure what he'll do now, but it seems unlikely that he won't achieve admirably in anything he chooses to do.

And The King goes out with the record books littered with the name Perkins. He still holds the world records for the 800 and 1500m freestyle and 800m shortcourse. And Olympic records, Commonwealth records, Australian records...

Kieren has further cemented himself as the greatest distance swimmer - and undoubtably one of the greatest swimmers - of all time. Long live The King!

Some Stats

Kieren was the only finallist in the 1500m freestyle from Atlanta to make the final again at the 2000 Olympics. The silver and bronze medallists from 1996 failed to even qualify for the Sydney Olympics in this event. Of course Kieren was also the only Barcelona 1992 finallist in this event to make the Sydney 2000 final. Add to this the fact that Kieren won the golds in this event in 1992 and 1996 and the silver in 2000 and you have some idea of the awesomeness of this feat. Not only this but Kieren has held, and continues to hold the 1500m freestyle world record continuously since well before the 1992 Olympics, and still holds the 1500m Olympic Record he set in 1992.

Scientific analysis shows that Kieren is still the world's premier distance swimmer. Pity about those turns.


Grant Hackett (AUS)

Kieren Perkins (AUS)

Chris Thompson (USA)

Av.Swim. Velocity m/sec




Free Swim Time secs




Total Turn Time/secs




Av Turn Time/secs




Start Time/secs




Finish Time secs




If Kieren had turned at the same speed as Hackett, he would have swum a time of approximately 14:43, equal to his Olympic record. If Grant had turned at the same rate as Kieren he would have clocked around 14:56.

The Wash - Up

As he's long said he would, Kieren has now officially retired. "I've had enough, it's all over."

Despite not winning the gold he wanted, he said it was "still the perfect result, because Australia won. It didn't matter who hit the wall first so long as it was Australia 1-2."

Kieren admitted he came close to "losing it" when the Australian team lifted him on their shoulders and held him up to the roaring crowd.

"That was the most emotional moment of the whole thing," said Kieren.

He is feeling the effects of his brave swim. "I have a headache that just won't seem to go away and it has got nothing to do with alcohol, believe me," said Perkins, who says it will take anywhere from two days to two months for him to recover. In the past his gruelling event has hurt his body so much he has been known to go a week before eating a solid meal.

Kieren is unsure of what he'll do in future, which he describes as a "great leap into the unknown", although there would be many opportunities for a legend of his calibre.  "I'm hoping to find something I love as much as swimming," he said.

He has a wide range of emotions about his retirement.

"There's relief that it's all over, pride, a little frustration, all those things. But mostly there's a lot of sadness."

"I've had a charmed life thus far."

Ask the Athlete (from

Q. Kieren, how emotional were you about this last swim? (Shortly after Kieren had hauled himself out of the pool)

To be honest I've tried not to think about it too much. I didn't want to put the all or nothing pressure on tonight's swim. It is the last time I'll be racing and I gave it 100 percent and that's all I've ever done and that's all I'll ever do.

Q. What about the reception when they read your name and lane out?

Oh it's fantastic. The crowd here, this whole week has been fantastic, spectacular. Australia is a sport loving nation and they love and understand their swimming and I'm just really glad and proud that this afternoon I could be part of what I'd like to think was our best night at the pool.

King Kieren swims 14:58 heat


Ecstatic PerkinsThe King is back - with a vengance.

Or at least, that was the message Perkins' rivals would have received from his amazing 1500m heat swim this morning.

Perkins swam 14:58.34 - the fastest heat swim in the history of the 1500m race and better than the fastest times ever swum by all competitors in the final except Grant Hackett. Erik Vendt qualified 2nd fastest, almost 7 seconds behind Perkins, Hackett third, just over 9 seconds slower than Perkins' swim.

The crowd, which had cheered wildly throughout the duration of the race, went ballistic. Perkins was ecstatic. So excited by Perkins were the crowd that they cheered every time he appeared, even when the heat after Perkins' was being swum.

Until now Kieren had not broken 15 minutes since Atlanta, even though he has broken the 15 minute mark more than twice as many times as anyone else in history. Now Perkins has smashed that psychological barrier, he can get down to business tomorrow.

Upon finishing the race Kieren punched the air and waved to the adoring crowd.

"I'm really, really happy," was Perkins's only comment as he swept past the waiting media to get to the swim-down pool, there to get the lactic acid out of his arms and legs.

Perkins' largest obstacle to winning the 1500 final tomorrow will probably be his own recovery. Being such a gruelling race a 1500m swim, especially under 15 minutes, takes a lot out of you. Perkins was aiming for an approximate heat time of 15:05, though he said after he couldn't believe he swam that time, it seemed so easy. Whether he swam faster deliberately or accidently is unknown, however he seems to have succeeded in sewing seeds of doubt in the mind of at least one of his rivals.

"It was kind of demoralising," said Vendt, who had been expecting a time more than 12 seconds slower for the world record holder.

All the attributes of the Perkins of old were there - the machine-like stroke (39 to the lap), the alternating two-beat and six-beat kicks, the remorseless splits, each of them falling within microseconds of even times as Perkins swam a race of clockwork precision.

As he turned through the 800m mark in 7mins 56.37secs, just 10s outside his own world record for the distance, he lifted his head out of the water to check that he was on schedule.

Satisfied that he was where he wanted to be, he resumed his remorseless stroking, churning through each 100m in fractionally under the minute.

"I suppose he was setting out to make a statement," said Perkins' delighted coach John Carew.

"I was hoping he would go just a little bit slower. But that won't knock him around. He can back up. And confidence-wise it has to help him.

"He's very emotional. This is his last 1500m event and he wants to go out on a high. I want him to go out with a medal because he's a champion and that's what he deserves."

So what will Perkins do between the heat and final? Sleep this afternoon and start tomorrow with a big breakfast "and get nervous."

But surely, the 7 other 1500m swimmers will be more nervous than the legend in lane 4.

1) 14:58.34 Kieren Perkins,73,AUS
2) 15:05.11 Erik Vendt,81,USA
3) 15:07.50 Grant Hackett,80,AUS
4) 15:09.12 Ryk Neethling,77,RSA
5) 15:10.94 Alexei Filipets,78,RUS
6) 15:11.21 Chris Thompson,78,USA
7) 15:11.91 Heiko Hell,80,GER
8) 15:12.30 Igor Chervynskiy,81,UKR

 Perkins powers up

By Wayne Smith

By definition, Kieren Perkins is a stronger swimmer than ever before by muscle definition, that is.

Perkins' coach John Carew, concerned that the dual Olympic 1500m freestyle champion was not getting enough cross-training, this year started him on a weights programme, the first time in his career that Perkins has pumped iron.

The results have been impressive, in and out of the water. In the water, Perkins' new strength has acted as a safeguard against the constantly recurring rib injury that at one stage looked like threatening his career.

Out of the water, Perkins is displaying an impressive set of pectoral muscles not nearly as impressive as the sprinters' perhaps, but still rippling by distance swimmers' standards.

"As long as he doesn't get too bulky, I'm happy with it," Carew said.

"If I had put Kieren on weights earlier in his career, he wouldn't be in the game today, but at this stage he needed something to hold him together."

While adding a centimetre or two to Perkins' chest and biceps, Carew also has been steadily working on picking up a few centimetres in Perkins' other weak area, his turns.

Carew said yesterday that Perkins, in recent years, had been losing speed coming into and off the wall and also had been slow in actually executing his turns.

Biomechanical analysis of the 1500m freestyle final at the Australian Olympic selection trials in May revealed that Perkins was actually faster through the water than his rival Grand Hackett but lost the race as a result of his slow turns.

That same fault had first emerged at the 1991 world titles in Perth where Germany's Jorg Hoffmann out-turned Perkins on every lap, eventually winning a thriller by 0.22sec. "Kieren should have won that race by 15m," Carew said.

But the biggest improvement in Perkins' turns came as a result of a five-minute coaching session from team-mate Chris Fydler at the Australian team's recent training camp in Caloundra. Fydler, a 100m freestyle specialist, took one look at Perkins and immediately identified the problem Perkins was turning too shallow in the water and, as a consequence, was being swamped by his own wake as he came off the wall.

Technically, the defending Olympic champion is as complete as Carew can make him. Now the coach wants Perkins to shut everything out of his mind on race day next Saturday, other than their game plan.

"I don't want Kieren going in thinking about anyone else at all," Carew said. "All I want is for him to go through the checkpoints (100m, 400m, 800m and 1000m) in the times we work out."

Perkins' internal clock is uncannily accurate and when he settles into a race pace he is able to keep clicking over splits that are almost identical, to the last decimal point. Carew coached the great Steve Holland in this regard.

Kieren: I can go out a winner


Kieren Perkins is adamant he can go out a winner in what will definitely be the last meet of his stellar swimming career.

Written off by every critic from Sports Illustrated to former US swimmer Rowdy Gaines, Perkins retains an unshakeable faith in his own ability.

``I believe in myself,'' Perkins said yesterday. "I know I have got the opportunity to win and I think I can win. I believe I can win. Now that I am here my opportunity is obviously a lot stronger. To be honest when it comes down to the actual final I am just going to get in there and race the race."

Adding grit to Perkins' legendary determination is the knowledge that he faces less than half an hour of gruelling racing for the rest of his life -- the heats of the 1500m on Friday week followed by the final the next day.

Although he himself speculated he might extend his swimming career beyond the Sydney Olympics, perhaps to take in next year's Goodwill Games in home-town Brisbane, Perkins gave unequivocal notice yesterday that the end is nigh.

Asked how it would be, standing behind the blocks on September 23, he replied: ``Exciting, nerve-wracking and tense. This is the Olympic Games, the toughest meet you'll ever swim in ... this is my last one, my last competition. I'm just going to enjoy it.''

Knowing he will never again have to contend with the excruciating pain of the 30-lap event is certain to bolster Perkins' mental toughness during the race -- a race many believe will be decided by which Australian is the stronger mentally.

"I am happy. I am relaxed. I am enjoying the atmosphere," Perkins declared.

"I've enjoyed the last couple of weeks with this team more than I have, definitely, at any other Olympics or Australian team I have been involved in. This is a great cohesive unit and we are going to be successful because of it."

But he was talking down the clash with Hackett. "The competition between Grant and I is no different to anyone else on this Australian team. As a group of individuals we are strong competitors who are looking forward to beating everyone else that is out there."

However the Cheshire Cat smile that so often flickers across Perkins' face these days heightens suspicions that the dual Olympic champion is playing mind games with his rival.

Perkins arrives in Sydney


The Australian swimming team have arrived in Sydney. They were bussed to the Olympic village straight off the tarmac. On arrival they were presented with their Australian team blazers by former swimmers such as Dawn Fraser. The swimmers were also treated to some songs by the Boxing Kangaroos cheer squad - including one about Kieren, a variation of Oh Come all ye Faithful('Oh come let us adore him, Kieren The King'.) Kieren seemed to enjoy this, of course, in fact he burst into laughter.

Still The King

Rivals fear one last super swim from The Superfish


Kieren Perkins is poised to ambush Grant Hackett and snare an historic Olympic treble by winning the 1500m freestyle final.

That's the growing tide of opinion in the Games Village about the race that will stop the nation in a fortnight.

South African national team coach Wayne Ridden yesterday led the chorus of support for the defending Olympic champion when he described Perkins as the undisputed favourite for the 1500m gold.

Ridden said Hackett, the world No1 since 1998, had soured his 1500m chances by taking on an ambitious and hefty program of four events (the 200m, 400m, 1500m freestyle and 4x200m relay).

"Hackett must be a little bit nervous," Ridden said yesterday.

"You can't take away experience and that is why I am saying Perkins will be the harder guy to beat. He knows this is probably his last opportunity so his will to win is a lot greater. I think the workload may be a disadvantage to Hackett."

Despite Ridden's comments, there is little doubt Perkins should be labelled the underdog - as he was in Atlanta - but one with the tenacity of a bulldog and the ferocity of a pit bull.

Ridden's vote of support for Perkins came a day after Australian head coach Don Talbot warned Hackett his rival was swimming better than he was before his Olympic triumph in Atlanta.

"Kieren's the world record holder - don't write him off whatever you do," Talbot said.

There is growing support among punters for Perkins to complete the unprecedented treble.

Alice Springs-based betting agency Centrebet faces a major payout if Perkins wins after posting him at 9/1 in January, odds which were snapped up by several Brisbane-based punters.

In a revised market announced yesterday when Centrebet threw open betting on all events at the Games, Perkins was paying $4 to win. Hackett was paying $1.25.

Whether he wins or not, his standing as the sentimental favourite is assured. Such is his public following that one commentator recently quipped Hackett might as well be an American but that cuts little ice with Perkins.

"That's a bit rough," he said. "He's an Australian and that's that. There does seem to be this attitude ... that it's a great rivalry and it's a match race and you either go for one or the other. It's wrong; we're both Australians and whichever one of us touches the wall and gets the gold medal, fantastic, let's just hope the other bloke picks up silver and it's a quinella for the country."

"I'm really happy with the way things are going," Perkins said. "My stroke's coming together. I'm starting to get a fairly decent amount of speed in there but I'm still, in a lot of ways, in full training. I only started my taper on the weekend ... I've got another couple of weeks to see how things are, to see how I'm feeling and to hopefully have everything fall into place as we get closer in."

A trivial matter

As well as lots of training, the Australian swimmers have had some fun on their training camp in Melbourne, including attending the AFL Grand Final, and the regular 'King of Trivia' night. Kieren's team won of course, after all, he was the answer to one of the questions (list the last six Australian Olympic swimming gold medal winners - without naming the same person twice.) They have also listened to motivational speakers such as Dawn Fraser and explorer Peter Tresender. The swimmers will arrive in Sydney on Sept. 10.

Talbot says Perkins better than four years ago


Doing some kickingMELBOURNE, AAP - Australian head coach Don Talbot has warned Grant Hackett that Kieren Perkins is swimming better now than he was before his Atlanta Olympic triumph.

"Kieren's the world record holder, don't write him off whatever you do," Talbot said today at the Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre.

"It's going to be the toughest, closest race probably in the last 12 years in the 1500m.

"Kieren is better now than at this point in Atlanta, no doubt about it, but he's going to have to be ... there will be a lot of people going under 15 minutes."

Talbot said Perkins was a more relaxed character than at the 1996 Games where he placed suffocating pressure on himself as defending champion. Perkins agreed.

"In Barcelona I didn't have to think about it all that much, I just got in and did the job," he said, reflecting on his three Olympic campaigns.

"In Atlanta I felt the pressure a lot more, there was a huge expectation within myself to prove the first time wasn't a fluke, whereas this time around I'm just enjoying it.

"One of the dangers I have to deal with is not getting too nervous, if I think about things too much in the half hour or hour beforehand I can let that get out of control a little bit.

"When the moment comes to walk out to the pool deck behind the blocks, I guess that's when I switch on the game face and get on with the job."

Perkins admitted he was a slower finisher than Hackett and said he needed to have the race in the bag with 200m or 300m to go.

"If it comes down to the last 100m I'll be in trouble," he said. "As long as I touch the wall first I don't care what time I do."

Having revealed before the Barcelona Games that his ambition was to win three straight 1500m titles, Perkins added: "Nothing that's really worthwhile in life is ever easy, the harder it is the higher the stakes and the greater the reward when it's all over.

"Two down, one to go."

Last Chance for Olympic Perkins Tickets

Tickets to the 1500m freestyle final on Sept. 23 will be available tomorrow (Wed Sept. 6) at Olympic ticket box offices. Go here to see location of Olympic box offices. Get in quick- these will sell out early in the day!


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