Kieren Perkins is at an Australian swimming team training camp in preparation for the Pan Pacs and the Sydney 2000 Olympics. Also there are his big rivals- both Aussies- Grant Hackett and Daniel Kowalski.
Kieren says his aim for the Pan Pacs in August is to swim under 15 minutes for the 1500, and to be in top form by the Olympics next year.
Perkins also spoke about the latest drugs-in-sport issue - a refusal from soccer and cycling to toe the line over two-year maximum penalties is expected to force the IOC to allow shorter penalties and end its bid for a unified stance against drugs from all sports. Kieren said the IOC should insist on two-year bans or throw out the sports.
"It's very disappointing and I'm amazed that the IOC won't stand up to them," said Perkins, Australia's leading Olympic sports figure.
"Obviously in Europe, soccer and cycling are two of the biggest professional sports that there are. But the Olympic Games is still the biggest sporting event in the world and if these sports want to be involved, then they've got to toe the line on all issues. The IOC shouldn't back down."
The Australian swimming championships, which double as the Pan Pacific trials, are being held in Brisbane this week.
Kieren Perkins is just happy to get plenty of racing throughout the week.
Perkins, who admits these titles are an important stepping stone towards his second defence of the 1,500m gold in Sydney, was to contest four events, the 200m, 400m, 800m and 1,500m freestyle. However, the 800m freestyle (in which he holds the world record) was axed from the program after it was removed from the Pan Pac schedule.
"After my performances at the Commonwealth Games, I realised I slipped back a little, but I've put in some solid performances, and my training is at a good level," Perkins said. "It is a hard meet, and will be a test of fitness for me, but I'm hoping it's the springboard going into the Pan Pacs.
"I had seven or eight months off after Atlanta, and I missed out on the Pan Pacs. When they were on, watching it at home on television, I realised how much I missed being there."
Kieren's first event, the 400m, was won by Ian Thorpe. Thorpe was widely tipped to break Perkins' world record, but failed to do so. Grant Hackett was 2nd, 1.5 seconds behind. Although Kieren finished 4th, he was pleased by his time, 3:53.06, which is the fastest 400 he has swum since 1996.
And Perkins, does he despair, trailing these two new fish down the pool? "No, it doesn't upset me, other than that I think I should have that speed myself. But I will again."
Perkins' coach John Carew said he had seen some hopeful signs in the way the 25-year-old is swimming.
"There's an improvement in his swimming to what it has been," Carew said.
"Our aim is just to get into the team. That's it. We're not too worried about times."
Friday 26th, Kieren swam the 1500m heats. He has qualified 2nd fastest for the final tomorrow, clocking a leisurely 15:44.98, 5 sec behind Commonwealth champ Grant Hackett.
In the final, Grant Hackett failed dismally in his attempt to break Kieren's world record, never even getting close and missing by almost 8 sec. Kieren finished 3rd, fulfilling his goal to get on the team. Now he is on the team for the Pan Pacs he can pick and choose what events he wants to swim at them. The Pan Pacs will be in Sydney in August.
Australian head coach Don Talbot said Perkins had shown tremendous courage and that his characteristic grit would ensure no one would take him for granted.
``He could have easily quit, but so far he hasn't and he got in the Pan Pacific team and no one gave him any favours,'' Talbot said. ``We know he's made of the right stuff.''
By NICOLE JEFFERY and RUPERT GUINNESS
DUAL Olympic gold medallist Kieren Perkins will consider joining the International Olympic Committee if a position becomes vacant in Australia after he retires from top swimming next year.
Australian Olympic Committee president John Coates nominated Perkins, 25, as a possible candidate to replace embattled IOC member Phil Coles if he chose to stand down in the wake of his implication in the Salt Lake City bribery scandal.
Mr Coates agreed Oarsome Foursome rower Mike McKay, who is on the AOC board, and four-times Olympian Peter Montgomery would also make worthy candidates.
Mr Coles will be seriously reprimanded by the IOC this week for accepting extravagant gifts from Salt Lake City but Mr Coates said yesterday his old friend still had his complete support.
Perkins, the reigning 1500m freestyle champion, also offered his support to Mr Coles, saying "if Phil resigned, you would have to replace everyone.
"If you delved deep enough, you would find everyone (in the IOC) has done what Phil has done.
"I believe most of the delegates, including Phil, are very good and do have the athletes' best wishes at heart. They just got a little bit lost along the way."
Perkins said he expected both Australia's serving IOC members, Mr Coles and executive board member Kevan Gosper, would continue in their positions for some years.
But he was keen to serve the IOC in some capacity once he retired after the Sydney Olympics.
"John Coates has mentioned the Athletes Commission to me before," he said. "I have never made any secret that it is something I would be interested in.
"I have never considering being an actual IOC delegate because I always thought, and still think, Phil and Kevan will be there for a long time.
"As a past athlete involved with three Olympic Games and a bidding city, I think I would have something to offer, but it is something that, practically, can only happen after I retire."
Perkins' comments come as the IOC prepares to debate radical reforms designed to enable the besieged organisation to develop a cleaner, more youthful image. For the AOC, reeling from Mr Coles' role in the controversy, Perkins' wholesome reputation would be invaluable.
Perkins said he was surprised by the enormous media reaction to the revelations about Olympic bidding practices in recent months.
"I just assumed that everyone knew what went on and the favours that were done for votes," he said.
"I feel the position Phil is in and the things he has been accused of, while you can't condone them, he hasn't done anything different from anyone else for the past few decades," Perkins said.
"It has got out of hand, but it is part of what happens in any major bidding process for anything. If a mining company wants to dig a hole in the ground, they go out and curry favour with people who make the decision."
Parks and streets at Sydney's Games Village have been named in honour of well known Australian and international Olympians.
The 27 Australian Olympic and Paralympic competitors include Kieren Perkins, Susie O'Neill, John Devitt, Sir Frank Beaurepaire, and Louise Sauvage.
Twenty-five international stars are also given recognition through the naming of streets including Jesse Ownes Avenue, Muhammed Ali Parade and Nadia Comaneci Avenue.
Olympics Minister Michael Knight says it is the first time that a city's Games village will bear the names of Olympic greats.
By WAYNE SMITH in Brisbane
KIEREN Perkins, angry at the lack of respect he now receives, intends regaining the world No 1 1500m freestyle ranking by the Olympic selection trials in May next year to silence his critics well in advance of the Sydney Games.
In an extraordinary interview in which he sent out unmistakeable signals he is more committed than ever to winning the Olympic 1500m freestyle title in 2000 for an unprecedented third time, Perkins said being No 1 by the trials was "required from my point of view".
"It will shut up all the idiots who are laying into me and just allow me to get on with what I have to do," said Perkins.
The world record holder praised Grant Hackett, the Gold Coast 19-year-old who has succeeded him as world, Commonwealth and Pan Pac champion, describing him as "talented" and "an incredibly arrogant competitor (who) is very comfortable in his ability".
But he also has infinite confidence in his own ability to beat him.
"He (Hackett) doesn't dictate the terms of the race and it's going to be a problem when someone who can dictate the terms comes along.
That's the way I race," he said.
Not satisfied with setting himself to topple Hackett in the 1500m, Perkins also outlined his plans to depth-charge The Thorpedo, world male swimmer of the year Ian Thorpe, to win the Olympic 400m freestyle gold next year.
"Ian will be harder to beat," said Perkins, who claimed Thorpe was the only swimmer who had ever inspired awe in him.
"He has a turn of speed over the last 100m like I've never seen before.
"I haven't won the Olympic 400m freestyle and I feel I should have. I honestly believe I can win it in Sydney. Thorpe's swimming incredibly well but I have faith in my ability to go faster than I ever have before."
© News Limited
Kieren Perkins contested the 400m and 1500m freestyle at the short course World Cups in Sydney and Hobart.
Australian head coach Don Talbot said the world 1500m longcourse record holder was using the World Cup to keep within reach of his rivals."If anyone uses this sort of meet as preparation, Kieren is it," he said. "He's at a point now where he can very easily reach the others. This year he's up there and I think he's handling it very well. He's not letting anyone get out of reach from him this time."
Perkins said the serious work towards his dream of becoming the first male swimmer to win three consecutive Olympic gold medals in the one event would begin once he returned home from the Sydney and Hobart World Cups.
The 25-year-old said he had been merely "marking time" in training during the Christmas/New Year period with his hectic home life filling in much of his time.
"Building a house, selling the old one, having babies, it's all happening," said Perkins, whose wife Symantha gave birth to their second child, Harrison, on December 29.
"Once the world cups are over and done with and I get back, I'm really going to start training 100 per cent again.
"The Olympic trials are 14 months away and that will be 14 months of solid training. I'll have my head down until then."
Perkins said he was up to the challenge of combining fatherhood with preparing for the biggest contest of his swimming career in Sydney. Practicalities have already been sorted out.
"Sleeping is the number one problem," he said.
"I've got a nice fold up bed downstairs in an air-conditioned room. There's even a TV down there for me. I get all the sleep that I need."
Perkins, whose first child Georgia was born in late 1997, said swimming was one of the best jobs in the world for a father.
"I train in the mornings, I train in the evenings and I have the rest of the day to be there to enjoy them," he said.
"And I've always felt that one of my greatest assets has been my ability to compartmentalise. When I'm training, I'm training. When I'm at home, I'm at home."
Perkins, who contested the World Cup "to keep my reflexes sharp" was heartened by his performances, despite only finishing 6th in the 400m (3:51.35) and 5th in the 1500m (15:02.03) In the 1500m he managed to keep up with the leader Hackett until the 900m mark. He originally was not going to contest the 1500m in Hobart, but was so pleased with his swim that he entered.
In Hobart, Perkins clocked a 3:51.19 400m time. He again finished 5th in the 1500, and was satisfied with his performance.
WORLD CUP MEETS ATTRACT TOP 1500M SWIMMERS
Australia's world cup swimming meets in Sydney and Hobart later this month have attracted some of the best 1500-metre freestyle swimmers of all time.
Australian Swimming spokesman IAN HANSON says Olympic champion KIEREN PERKINS, Commonwealth champion GRANT HACKETT and Olympic silver medallist DANIEL KOWALSKI are all confirmed starters.
They'll join Italian world championship silver medallist EMILIANO BREMBILLA and Scottish Olympic bronze medallist GRAEME SMITH.
The World Cup is swum in a shortcourse format contested in a 25-metre pool.
The Sydney meet will be swum on January 15 and 16, while the Hobart meet will be staged January 18 and 19.
AAP RTV jhm/ws
IF Kieren Perkins qualifies for Sydney 2000 he will be the reason why the tickets for the 1500m final will be the hardest of all to get your hands on. But given one ticket to an Olympic event, what would Perkins choose.? "I'd like to watch the triathalon" It will be a very spectacular event on Sydney Harbour, and the tickets are free."
"I train with some triathaletes and I would love to see them compete at the Games. I think it is a very exciting sport and it is great that it is in the Olympics now."
The Sun Herald, Reuters
He's the king of our hearts and the prince of the pool, but despite a shift in focus, Perkins feels he's not washed up.
Articulate and calm beyond his years, all grown up and ready for the end, Kieren Perkins is confident about his future.
His self belief remains, but some things change.
"I don't have this burning desire to continually obliterate everybody that I race against, or win every meet just because there there." But he is hoping to peak once more, in Sydney, in a sport he still loves.
"I think it's going to be a magical event in Sydney for someone like me," Perkins told the Sun-Herald newspaper at the weekend.
"When I sit down at the end of the day on my own and think about where I am and what I've done and what's coming up, I'm incredibly happy and comfortable about what it is I have achieved."
Perkins was third behind compatriot Grant Hackett and South African Ryk Neethling at the Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur in September. There have been no soul searching sessions, and few creeping doubts.
Perkins, now in a light training phase, is working 5 hours a day, 13km every day, churning away above the black line with only himself for company. He knows he could step away from the pool now as a rich man. He could watch the 1500m final in a free blazer provided by a television station, chuckle with the winner on the pool deck and his fans would turn on and adore that attractive grin.
20 months from retirement, after all the pressure, all the laps, he's still swimming because he still loves it. "I enjoy it because it's time I have to myself," he said. "And it's very clensing to have that couple of hours a day where you can push your body physically."
"There are days when you want to be doing 101 other things besides swimming, but fundamentally there are a lot more days when I love it."
Perkins said that while there were times it would be easier if he continually wanted to obliterate his rivals, there also were advantages to being a mature athlete.
"Now I know what I do and don't have to do to achieve my goals."
"I'm only human and there are some days when you have a few little doubts about how things are going and what it is you might achieve in the future," Perkins said.
"But all in all I'm a very positive person. I've been doing this long enough to know know that if I really do want it badly enough and I do the work properly, then I will do well."
Perkins has made it clear that if the 2000 Olympics had gone to Beijing or Manchester, he probably would be kicking back with his family instead of kicking down the pool.
Polls may show a levelling off of interest in the Sydney Olympics within the city itself, but Perkins the patriot will give his all to help the host succeed.
'There's a lot of things that are going to be going on in the build-up to 2000, and as long as training permits, I definitely want to take a broader role."
Perkins hopes to make his Olympics experience complete.
"There's absolutely no reason why you can't get both a medal and a memory and, hopefully, I will get the opportunity. These are things that need to be cherished."
Perkins is the most celebrated Australian Olympian of his generation. His success makes his race the one Olympic event which can draw the same sort of viewing obsession as the Melbourne Cup.
"The 1500m freestyle has become the highest rating television event in Australia," Perkins said. "The occasions those ratings have occurred have been when I'm swimming and that's a great honour, I feel very proud."
Perkins is loved by children and grandmothers and people who flog milk.
"I don't know why I appeal to the public. I'd like to think it's because people think I'm a nice guy and that I'm just an Aussie bloke who gets in there and gives it a go, but I think the event probably has more to do with it."
Perkins said Australians loved events which took time- "they love watching Mark Taylor spend 3 days at the crease" - which is a funny comparison to make.
Taylor's 334 in Peshawar took 12 hours. David Campese's rugby Tests were 80 minutes each and he played 100 of them. Greg Norman is on the course about 16 hours each tournament.
But if you're a Perkins fan, you've probably only seen him race on TV seven times- 2 Olympics, 3 Commonwealth Games, and a couple of World Championships. That's less than 2 hours of action in his main event in 8 years.
Yet his profile is on a par with Norman's and Taylor's, and higher than Campese's.
And while Australians have at times turned on Tubby for his batting slump, the Shark for his spectacular losses, and Campo for his showmanship, Perkins remains the King of hearts, a tall poppy who's never been pruned.
"One of the great things about this country is that it supports its athletes, almost undyingly, in their achievements," Perkins said.
"About the only time you see an Aussie athlete getting dethroned from his event in the view of the public is when there's another Aussie doing it to them. Australians really hold onto their champions."
Hackett may so far be on course to dethrone Perkins in Sydney, but unfortunately for him he can never really win. It is hard to imagine Australia ever truly letting go of Perkins.
The Sunday Telegraph
The route of the Sydney 2000 Olympic torch relay was announced yesterday, and while only one runner- Olympic gold medallist Nova Peris Kneebone - has yet been confirmed, many have confirmed their desire to take part.
Kieren Perkins doesn't need to go running after honours. They have a way of coming to him. Yet even he is planning to put down his name on the list of thousands of Australian hopefuls who dream about jogging a leg of the Olympic torch relay.
He jokes about it, this man who has swum 1.5km faster than any person who ever lived, and ponders aloud whether he is capable of even completing a kilometre on dry land - and there will be plenty of that on the journey.
He laughs, too, when asked whether he's done enough to warrant selection as a relay runner. "I think I should be right," ventures the dual Olympic gold medallist, a broad smile lighting his face.
Yet the banter is no more than a screen for the reverence which Perkins feels for this most evocative symbol of the Olympic spirit. When Perkins announced in 1991 his intention of winning 3 Olympic gold medals in the 1500m freestyle, he was no more than a raw 17-year-old fired by dreams of Olympic glory. Now, 7 years later and with two-thirds of his task complete, the flame inside him burns no less fiercely.
"The Olympic games are what we train for, what we focus on, what we live for," says Perkins. "They start with the flame being lit and they end when the flame is put out. And in between is the most important test of our careers."
He has, surprisingly, never attended an Olympic Games opening ceremony, choosing in Barcelona and Atlanta to save his energy instead for the pool. But there are those who suspect he may make a surprise appearence in Homebush Bay, as the man who will - literally - set the Games alight.
From Nova Peris-Kneebone - who will run the first leg at Uluru - to Perkins, or whoever is assigned the final leg of the torch relay, it will be more than just the Olympic flame which is passed along from hand to hand.
DUAL gold medallist Kieren Perkins and non-Olympian Sir Donald Bradman have emerged as equal 3-1 favourites to light the Olympic flame at the Sydney Games, according to odds given by Australia's largest off-course bookmaker. Olympic gold medal swimmers Dawn Fraser and Murray Rose have been given odds 4-1 and 5-1 respectively.
Kieren Perkins contested the 2x200m freestyle at the Qantas Skins in Sydney.
The lineup also included Grant Hackett, Daniel Kowalski, Ian Thorpe and Ryk Neethling.
The competition consisted of two 200m races with a 1 minute break in between, the winner having the fastest combined time.
The event was won by Grant Hackett, who appeared to be the only one to take the event seriously. Kowalski was second and Perkins 3rd. Neethling beat Ian Thorpe who finished a surprise last.
Asked if this was a rehearsal for 2000, Kieren said "No, a lot of things will change by 2000. I've improved my time 10 seconds since April, so I'm sure I have time to find 20sec in the next 18 months."
Perkins was forced to pull out of the Australian short course championships a fortnight ago due to the illness which also plagued him at the Commonwealth Games, however hopefully now he is in better shape. He certainly seemed in a happy mood.
Ryk Neethling says Kieren is still one to watch in 2000.
"I have a funny feeling that he's going to come back with a bang. He's been working himself up slowly," Neethling said.
"If you look at his 400, I think he'll go fast soon, or at the Olympics. The Australian Olympic trials is going to be a big meet and I think he (Perkins) might go off there."
The Daily Telegraph 25/09/98
Olympic swimming champion Kieren Perkins literally ended up richer for the experience after his wallet was stolen from a Perth hotel overnight.
"Some credit cards and a few bits and pieces are missing but I actually got more money back than I thought had been in the wallet," Perkins said.
"I ended up with 70 extra dollars that I didn't have before the night," Perkins told reporters, wallet in hand. "I can't really complain. I don't know how it happened but there's $130 in here and I only had $60."
Perkins, who is in Perth for the Australian Short Course Championships, said he and room mate, Queensland swimmer Heath Ramsey, slept through the incident which occured at about 1:30am.
Ten minutes later the burgler moved on to the room of medley swimmer Trent Steele, who awoke when his wallet was stolen. He and his roommate chased the woman into the street, where she got into a taxi.
Steele, 18, said the taxi would not stop initially because the woman told the driver the swimmer was trying to harm her. But they ran after it, yelling at the driver, and eventually he stopped and held the woman until police arrived.
Perkins was woken at 3am when police returned his stolen wallet.
Perkins was calm about the robbery.
"It happens. It's not the first time my wallet's been stolen, and it won't be the last."
A 28-year-old woman appeared in Fremantle magistrate's court yesterday, charged with two counts of burglary.
ABC Online 23/09/98
The final contingent of Australian swimmers has arrived in Perth for the national short course championships starting on Thursday.
Most of Australia's swimmers who competed at the Commonwealth Games are in Perth, with the exception of Susie O'Neill.
Kieren Perkins says it will be a challenge to compete again so soon after Kuala Lumpur.
"Keeping us very busy aren't they?" he said.
"It's a actually a little bit difficult to come out of a situation like the Commonwealth Games, you know such an exciting event, and everybody swimming really well and on an incredible high, and then you have to keep training in the knowledge you have to race again in a few days.
"It's a little bit difficult but I think we're all looking forward to it."
Perkins says with every race he feels he is getting closer to his best.
"I wouldn't do it if I didn't think I could," Perkins said.
"You know as far as I'm concerned I'm just getting back to somewhere I've already been and I'm not looking to do any anything new or outlandish.
"It's just a matter of getting back to where I was and you know it's going to be difficult, it's going to take me time but I've got no doubt I will do it," he said.
Webmaster's note: Kieren won bronze in the 400m, but was forced to withdraw from the 1500 due to illness.
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