Meet Report: Pan Pacs
SWIM: PERKINS' POTHOLE JUST A BUMP IN ROAD TO OLYMPICS
By Janelle Miles
SYDNEY, Aug 28 AAP - A sick Kieren Perkins' journey to Olympic glory hit a pothole today but he described it as "just another bump in the road".
The dual Olympic champion befell the same problem as Scott Miller in the 100m butterfly and former 200m world record holder Grant Hackett in the 200m, when Perkins swam fast enough to qualify for the final, but slower than 2 other Australians. The rules of the Pan Pacs are that only 2 swimmers from each country can contest the final.
But Perkins, who went into the race after two weeks of illness, refused to concede it was a setback to his dream of becoming the first male swimmer to win three Olympic gold medals in the one event.
"It's not a setback at all, being sick is a setback," Perkins said after today's heats.
He revealed that he and head coach Don Talbot had decided before the race that whatever happened in the heats he would pull out of the final to aid in his recovery.
"I wouldn't be still swimming if I didn't think I could still be competitive.
"I might be sounding like a bit of a broken down record by now but the 2000 Olympics is what I'm aiming for and I'm more than confident I'll be there.
"Over the years I've had more than my share of setbacks and this is just another bump in the road."
The world recordholder had been hoping to crash through the 15-minute barrier at the Pan Pacs for the first time since his Atlanta Olympics gold three years ago.
But he lost 3.5kg in four days with illness leading into today's race.
The tragedy is that before the illness struck, Perkins was on target – in his coach John Carew's estimation – for at least a 14min 55sec swim, his first sub-15 minute clocking since his Olympic gold medal-winning swim in Atlanta in 1996. His skinfolds were the lowest they had ever been although they have dropped even further as a result of the unscheduled weight loss.
"I've been really happy with my training. I was really confident I was going to come up with a top swim but I picked up some bug," he said. Even Grant Hackett and his coach admitted Perkins had been set to post a top time before he got sick.
"Under the circumstances, I thought the swim wasn't too bad," Carew said.
"He was pretty sick, you know. It's not just a sniffle he's had. He didn't eat for five days."
Perkins said he felt, in hindsight, it was a mistake to swim the 400 earlier this week and he should have sat it out to aid his recovery, and perhaps the 200 as well. His coach said perhaps he should not have swum the 1500 heats either, and only did so because he needed the racing.
It's the second major international in a row that Perkins has fallen ill.
He won bronze in 15:03 at last year's Commonwealth Games after being hit with a bout of diarrhoea.
The swimmer, who has set 12 world records since bouncing onto the world scene with silver in the 1990 Commonwealth Games, said he would investigate ways of boosting his immune system to prevent similar problems leading into the Olympic trials next May.
"I'm going to have to find something to make sure I stay healthy going into the nationals," said Australia's first million dollar swimmer ahead of Susie O'Neill, Michael Klim and Ian Thorpe.
"It's been the biggest problem for me the last couple of years. Every time I ease off my training I manage to get sick."
Despite all, Kieren looked pretty happy after the heats. He certainly looked happier than Grant Hackett, who was beaten in the heats by American Chris Thompson.
Steve Holland, who broke the 1500m world record 4 times in the 1970's, felt Kieren could get back to his best. "I think he can go back under, but not yet. But he has to answer the question, `How badly do you want it, Kieren?','' Holland said. ``I actually think he can break that world record again.''
Daniel Kowalski, Olympic silver medallist behind Perkins in 1996, felt it was 'ridiculous' that some people felt Kieren would not return to defend his Olympic title. "I think he showed in '96 that he's got the mental capabilities to do whatever he wants to do, and it just blows me away that people are thinking like that.''
Unlike Ian Thorpe, Perkins does not have enormous feet to propel him, flipperlike, through the water. He is not unusually tall, nor does he look incredibly strong. But, said Kowalski, he has the unique ability to take a race out hard and sustain it. "He gets in that rhythm and pace better than anyone in the world.''
Kowalski thinks the emergence of the new Australian champions this week is a direct result of what Perkins was doing - breaking mental barriers that seemed as impenetrable as the four minute mile once was in athletics. The 15minute 1500. The 3:45 400.
"I think he is the reason why all this is happening ... He let Australian swimmers know that we could swim at that level, that we could mix it with the best,'' Kowalski said. ``If I wanted to make a team, if I wanted to win a medal, I had to chase him. But there was also the way he handled himself.
"That (400 world record) race ... the fact that it went from 3.45.00 to 3:43.8, but also the way in which he swam it. He went right from the start, and then he was able to bring it home. But also he demoralised the whole field, and it was in a world championship final,'' he said.
Perkins will first travel to a domestic short-course meet in September, then hopes to contest some World Cups and the U.S. Open Championships in December.
SWIM: PERKINS AT 90 PER CENT
By Adrian Warren
SYDNEY, Aug 21 AAP - Dual Olympic champion Kieren Perkins reckons he is 90 per cent of the way back to full fitness heading into tomorrow's Pan Pacific Championships here and needs to race more to catch current 1500 metres freestyle supremo Grant Hackett.
World record holder Perkins, 26, has raced sporadically rather than regularly since winning a second successive Olympic 1500 metres crown in Atlanta three years ago.
Business and family commitments have grappled with swimming for a share of his time while fellow Queenslander Hackett has assumed top dog status in swimming's longest pool event.
With the Olympic trials only months away, Perkins said his fitness was slowly getting back to the desired level.
"I guess I could probably say it's somewhere around the 90 per cent mark, but it's just so difficult to really pinpoint, things are so different for me now," Perkins said.
"I'm not a teenager living at home, I'm an adult with a family who's got a lot of other commitments and a body that doesn't react to training the way it used to.
"It's hard for me to use the old benchmarks that I used to use, it's more a matter of doing the work and being happy with the progress I'm making and hope that when race day comes it all falls together."
Perkins said he had no specific time in mind, which, if he didn't reach, he would consider abandoning his quest for a third Olympic 1500 metres title.
"No, not at all. If I won the Pan Pacific championship in 16 minutes, I'd be more than happy," Perkins said.
However, with Perkins tipping Hackett to improve his personal best of 14:48.63 and South Africa's Commonwealth Games silver medallist Ryk Neethling also competing in Sydney, he said a sub-15 minute time would be required for victory.
Perkins said he wasn't putting a lot of expectations on himself going into the competition.
"But I haven't had the opportunity to race very much, so I'm just looking forward to getting into the meet and seeing how I go and when it's all over stand back and take the next step on towards the Olympics."
While Perkins hasn't broken the 15 minute barrier since his Atlanta triumph, he stressed he was putting a greater emphasis on placing rather than time at the Sydney International Aquatic Centre meet.
"For me at this stage, the position is more important. I haven't done a lot of racing over the last couple of years, so I need to start racing.
"I need to be able to get in the pool and take it to guys like Grant and be competitive, whatever the time may be.
"I will be using this as a benchmark for my racing fitness at this stage and whatever time comes out of it, it's not going to be something I'm going to be too concerned about because I'm more than happy with where my training is."
Perkins came down with a cold at the Australian team's Melbourne camp earlier this week but said that wasn't a problem with the 1500 metres event still several days away.
Far from finished, Kieren Perkins has his sights fixed on a third successive Olympic 1,500m freestyle gold medal, writes MICHAEL COWLEY
Only once has the thought wafted into the mind of Kieren Perkins. Its visit was brief, as it quickly became an idea rejected.
It was that question every athlete must ultimately consider, but for Perkins the time to retire was not on this day.
It wasn't that October evening in 1997 when, at Brisbane's Chandler Aquatic Centre, he glided into the wall, almost a full lap behind Grant Hackett and some 15 seconds adrift of Daniel Kowalski, and in doing so missed a spot in the Australian team and surrendered his chance to defend his titles at the world championships.
Nor was it that frightful Saturday afternoon in March this year when the Australian sporting public watched as his aching arms slapped heavily with each stroke into the Chandler pool, wondering if Perkins was like that aging footballer who decided to play "one more season" - one past his use-by date.
No, the one occasion when Perkins entertained the thought of walking away from swimming (and at his best many believed he could walk on water) was a day in late July, three years ago in the US State of Georgia.
It was soon after his "remember where you were when ..." swim in the 1,500m at the Atlanta Olympics when, a little like a quiz-show champion pondering whether to return and risk everything or take the prizes, the prestige, the glory, and run, that Perkins was confronted with the question. Should I stay or should I go?
To go would have been perfect timing. Contrary to Andy Warhol's opinion, King Kieren had enjoyed his 15 minutes - sometimes taking a few seconds less than 15 - of fame on numerous occasions. He had just produced the performance of an illustrious career to win his back-to-back Olympic gold medal. A position in Australian sporting folklore was his.
"The one time I thought about retiring was in Atlanta and I made the decision to keep going and that's something that I'll stick by," Perkins, 26 today, recalled this week. "Regardless of what happens in the future, I have no regrets at all.
"It's been difficult, and there has been times that I've wished I would get a bit more of a fair go from some people, but I haven't regretted it at all because I've got no doubt that, at the end of the day, when it's all said and done, I'll know that I've given 100per cent and, if things go the way that I believe they will, those people will be the ones who will be feeling stupid.
"But I also get support everywhere I go. Obviously for me walking down the street I get recognised and people come up and talk to me, wish me luck, and tell me they know that I can do it. That's really encouraging for me. It keeps my faith that the last eight or nine years of effort that I've put into my sport haven't been wasted, that people have appreciated the things I've achieved, and that I've gained a little bit of respect for what I do. That's important to me, to know that it hasn't been all wasted on a couple of bad races."
While we may never forget those sensational swims - the 14:43.48 to win gold in Barcelona, the world record 14:41.66 at the Commonwealth Games in Victoria, Canada, and the 14:56.40 in Atlanta after scraping into the final in lane eight by just 0.23s - it is the recent results, the mid-15 minute swims, those "bad races", which can cloud the memories.
The latest, that swim in Brisbane five months ago where he finished behind Hackett, and also astern of Sydney teenager Craig Stevens, was perhaps the most disappointing. Perkins climbed from the pool and was at a loss to explain what went wrong. Many thought that, with time rapidly running out before the Olympics, that swim might well have been his final.
"You've got to keep these things in perspective," he said. "It's as much a mental game as a physical game for me. I'm a very realistic person and I don't get too pissed off at these things.
"It was obvious that something went wrong. I was training much better than I raced, so it was just finding out what that thing was and moving on. And I did that."
A mistimed taper was the culprit, a mistake he doesn't plan to make again, starting in two weeks in the 1,500m at the Pan Pacific championships in Sydney.
"I think that I'm training as well as I have for a long time, but I don't think at this stage that's going to translate into a race as well as it could otherwise, simply because I'm not race-fit," said Perkins, world-ranked 16th in his event.
"I haven't raced very much in the last three years, and that makes these Pan Pacs very important to me because I want to get in there, race, and race well. It's an important step towards next year.
"The most important thing is to get a good race, at the end of the day come out of it and say I got a good start, held my technique, my turns were good, my finish was good, I paced the race well, and I responded well to whatever challenges the other competitors threw at me. Hopefully, if I do all those things well, the times will come, but I think if I can come out the other side of [the] Pan Pacs knowing that I threw all those things together properly, that would prepare me better for the next time I race."
The times will come? But how fast will they be? The last time he entered swimming's holy land - under the 15 minute barrier - was in Atlanta. Can he do it again? Can he do it in two weeks' time at the Pan Pacs, or would he prefer not to say, just in case he badly misses his prediction mark?
"I actually see it more from the other side of the coin, I don't want to say anything because I don't want to restrict where I may go. I want to get under 15 minutes, and that's sort of where I leave it.
"How far I can get under 15 minutes, to be completely honest, I don't know. I haven't raced enough so it's hard for me to judge how I'm feeling, how that's going to translate to what happens in a race. That's part of the reason that I'm really hoping that I can put a good race together, so that the next time I will be able to judge where I'm at."
Where he is at is all in the context of one day ... September 23, 2000. That afternoon, Perkins hopes to climb out of the Homebush Bay pool to the roars of a home crowd, then step atop the dais and have his third Olympic Games 1,500m gold medal draped around his neck.
Not only would it surpass his feat from Atlanta, not only would it be an achievement no other man has achieved, not only would this be the perfect finale, but it would be an ideal "I told you so" to those doubters who said he was "gone".
"Look, I want it [Olympic gold] badly enough to be doing all this for four years, and it would be nice to prove some people wrong. I'd be lying if I didn't say at times I don't think about it, but it's not the motivating factor, it never could be. That ranks up there with doing it for the money. It doesn't work like that.
"You can't push yourself the time that's required, and basically destroy yourself physically and mentally, for a negative reason. You can't do something like this because of what other people are saying about you, or because you might make money afterwards. It's a very personal thing and you have to want to do it for yourself because you believe in yourself and you've got the opportunity."
Perkins admits, though, that his biggest test won't be at the Pan Pacs, and it may not even be at the Olympics. It may come next May at the Australian Olympic trials, when the equation of fitting four into two becomes reality, with himself, Hackett, Kowalski and Stevens all fighting for the two spots on the Australian team.
But win one of those two spots and Perkins is certain he'll have another Olympic medal.
"I wouldn't say that I would win, but I would definitely be first or second. I don't believe at this stage there is anybody in the world that can challenge Australia's 1,500m swimmers when they are at their best, and you'd have to be pretty confident that we will be at our best at the Olympics, so the two guys who are racing, I think, will be racing each other for gold and silver."
And when it comes to racing for gold in an Olympic final, that's one area in which Perkins is proven over his rivals.
"The water side of it is no different," he said of the Olympics to any other meeting. "It's all a mental thing. There's a lot of pressure, a lot of expectation, it's a huge exciting event. There's really nothing else like it, and that's going to be amplified in Sydney. Where I believe the race is going to be won or lost is when we are all standing behind the blocks. It's the guy who is 100per cent focused and ready to win as opposed to the other guys who are a little bit distracted and a little unsure and sort of thinking about stuff too much."
And after Sydney? Is that it?
"Yep," he said emphatically. "That's it, no more."
And what if he misses the Australian team next May.
"Yep, that's still it ... I'm putting in 100per cent and I'm giving it the best shot that I could possibly give, and if I didn't make the team that's no big deal. But I intend to leave no stone unturned and to do everything I possibly can to give myself the best opportunity to make the team, and then see what can happen in Sydney next September."
What could happen is a finale fit for a king.
Australia's head swimming coach Don Talbot is predicting a big finish for Kieren Perkins, 26 today, in his trademark event, the 1500 metres at the Pan Pacific Swimming championships.
Perkins and the rest of the Australian team are currently in Melbourne preparing for the event, which starts in Sydney later this month.
Talbot says Perkins yesterday swam what he believes was his second best training swim ever and should finish at least second at the Pan Pacs.
"I'm not saying he's going to win the 1500 in the Pan Pacs but I would say this, he's going to be more competitive than he was at the Commonwealth Games where he swam a bronze," he said.
"He's a tough swimmer, he knows the 1500 metres, he looks upon it as his event and I would never bet against him, I can tell you that."
Copyright © 1999 Reuters News Service
By John Brock
MELBOURNE, Australia (August 11, 1999 4:17 p.m. EDT) - Kieren Perkins said on Wednesday he had "lots and lots of contempt" for people who do not believe he can win the 1,500-metres at the Sydney Olympics.
Perkins, 26, a gold medalist at the Barcelona and Atlanta Games, said he was relishing the chance to compete in an Olympics at home.
Perkins faces some stiff opposition to earn one of two 1,500 meters spots in the Australian team for Sydney from compatriots Grant Hackett, the world and Commonwealth champion, Daniel Kowalski and newcomer Craig Stevens.
Asked what he thought about those who believe he was too old, a smiling Perkins said: "I still have lots and lots of contempt for all those people who think I can't do it and that's never going to change."
"I only come across that attitude in the media. When I'm out and about on the street I'm continually getting people coming up and wishing me good luck and telling me I can do it.
"It far outweighs any negative comments that are made..."
Perkins said competing in an Olympics in his homeland was "a once in a lifetime" opportunity.
"Competing in Australia in an Olympic Games, being part of the opening and closing ceremonies...that's what spurs me on," Perkins said at the Australian team's training camp for this month's Pan Pacific championships in Sydney.
He said next year's Olympic trials were likely to be as tough as the Games in his event, saying "four into two won't go."
Of the Pan Pacifics, he said: "It's an important stepping stone but not the be all and end all. I haven't had much opportunity to race the 1,500 a lot internationally in the last few years so this is a good opportunity."
Reflections on issues at Australian swimming team camp
The Australian team are in Melbourne for a 10 day pre-Pan Pacs training camp.
Australian head swimming coach Don Talbot has called for athletes to be suspended immediately if they test positive to banned subtances.
Under current rules for Olympic sports an athlete can continue competing for an indefinite period until the secondary, or B test, is carried out, something which has to be done with the athlete and a witness present.
However, two-time Olympic gold medallist Kieren Perkins disagreed. He said there are too many things that could go wrong at the initial test and, if the positive test was announced then, the resulting headlines could ruin an innocent athlete's career.
"I could come up with a positive drug test tomorrow if my water was spiked or the food at the hotel could have something wrong with it. There could be tampering with the samples or the person running the test messed it up," Perkins said.
"For an athlete to be banned straight away because of that is wrong."
"Samples should be tested much faster and it shouldn't take months to do the B test and then go through the Court of Arbitration."
Meanwhile, Perkins is expecting next year's Australian Olympic qualifying trials to be tougher for the men's 1500m swimmers than the Games themselves with only two places available.
"Four doesn't go into two very well," he said.
Two-time Olympic champion Perkins said that with major competition coming from Grant Hackett, Craig Stevens, and veteran Daniel Kowalski, the two qualifiers would need to swim times worthy of an Olympic win the earn a spot.
"If it wasn't hard it wouldn't be worth it," he said with a wry smile.
Channel 7 reported Kieren's training well and all Perkins fans are sure to hope it's true.
Kieren Perkins is contesting the Australian Swimming Grand Prix in Brisbane from July 31 - Aug 1.
Perkins attended a distance training camp with Australia's other top swimmers, but came down sick. He has recovered - but not before passing on the illness to rival Grant Hackett. Perkins was back training on Thursday.
Kieren reiterated his focus was on Sydney 2000. "You don't put yourself through this sort of agony just for the hell of it," he said. "I'm happy the way things are heading."
Denis Cotterell, who coaches Hackett and Daniel Kowalski, thinks Perkins is just getting wound up.
"I wouldn't even suggest that what he does at the Pan Pacs will be a true indicator," Cotterell said. "I believe he has enough time for things to click at the trials. He has taken a long time to wind up, but he can only get better.
"Only outsiders and fools fail to appreciate a real champion. When Kieren said he would be there at Sydney 2000 that's good enough for me. He has been there twice before. It would not pay to write him off."
The Grand Prix will feature all Australia's Pan Pac team, including Hackett, Ian Thorpe, and Craig Stevens, and the return of Perkins' training partner Hayley Lewis.
Interviewed before the morning heats, Kieren was perky and in good spirits, despite his illness.
His thoughts on the upcoming Pan Pacs? "I'm looking forward to it, and it'll be a good dress rehearsal for the Olympics, and hopefully Australia can get up and have some good swims."
And the importance of the Pan Pacs for his own campaign? "I have to do well, it's a springboard for 2000 but it's not the be-all and end-all of my racing, we've still got - 8 months I think it is - till the Olympic trials, it's going to be a hard 8 months for me, I'm gonna do a lot of hard training between now and then, and regardless of what happens at Pan Pacs I'll be ready in May."
And do you think Perkins will be there in Sydney 2000? "Heh heh heh!.....Of course I do!"
"I've said right from the start that I went on because I thought I had the chance to go on to 2000 and compete in front of a home crowd, and have a shot at picking up a third Olympic gold medal. It's been my goal, it is my goal, and nothing will change that, I still fervently believe that I will be there in 2000, and I'll be giving it my best shot, and believe me, I wouldn't be putting myself and my family through this hell if I didn't think I had a chance."
Kieren swam the 400m heats and qualified 2nd fastest for the final. However, illness got the better of him and he withdrew from the final. He did not improve, and also withdrew from the 1500 next day.
Monday August 9, Kieren and the rest of the Australian team go into a 10-day pre-Pan Pacs camp in Melbourne.
BRISBANE, June 30 AAP - The man with the most to gain from Olympic medallist Daniel Kowalski's career-threatening shoulder injury today wished him a quick recovery.
Kieren Perkins said he was disappointed for Kowalski, who has been forced to pull out of the Pan Pacific swimming Championships in August in what will be a dress rehearsal for next year's Olympics.
Kowalski underwent exploratory shoulder surgery in Melbourne yesterday in a bid to save his swimming career.
He was operated on by Greg Hoy, the same surgeon who treated cricketer Shane Warne.
The Olympic medallist's recurring shoulder problems have placed a question mark over his inclusion in next year's Olympic team and may provide an opening for Perkins.
But Perkins was far from rubbing his hands with glee at Kowalski's misfortune today.
"Daniel and I have raced together many times over the years. We're close friends as well as competitors," the dual Olympic champion said.
"I'm looking forward to racing him again. I hope that Daniel recovers quickly as we have an outstanding opportunity to compete at the 2000 Olympics.
"It will be terrible if he missed that due to something as unfortunate as a shoulder injury."
With Perkins, Kowalski and world champion Grant Hackett vying for the two berths to the Olympics, Kowalski's injury may give Perkins the opening he needs for a shot at becoming the first male swimmer to win three consecutive Olympic titles in the same event.
Kowalski's decision to pull out of the Pan Pacs follows the recent withdrawal of Olympic 200m butterfly silver medallist Petria Thomas also with shoulder problems.
Kieren Perkins also saluted Australia's cricket World Cup victory, hailing Shane Warne as the ultimate sporting champion.
So moved was the swimmer by the leg spinner's performance at Lord's he said it would help inspire his own 2000 Olympic campaign.
Warne's against all odds return to form after contemplating quitting the sport can be likened to Perkins' gold medal 1500m freestyle swim from lane 8 at the Atlanta Olympics and his quest to defend that title at the Sydney Games.
"Congratulations to Warne for showing the rest of the world how tough he is," Perkins said from Brisbane.
"It is great to see a champion like him work through it, pull it all together, and shut the knockers up in the best way possible."
Drawing parallels to his own sporting career, Perkins claimed that self belief was integral to the bowler's success.
"The problem is believing in yourself enough to be able to do it when people say you can't," Perkins said.
"Negative comments about yourself, no matter how brash and brave you are, do get through."
"It takes a very tough and focused individual to turn that around."
The Sydney Olympics swimming trials are about 11 months away.
Perkins said he would use Warne's World Cup achievement as motivation to achieve his own goals.
"This is a reminder to someone like me that it can be done," Perkins said.
"If you put your mind to it, repeating performances is not out of the question."
"Just seeing him come back says to me: 'why can't I?'"
By NICOLE JEFFERY 24may99
IT was a picture for posterity. Two men who will challenge history at next year's Olympic Games chatted beside the empty pool at the Australian Institute of Sport last week long after most of the other swimmers had left.
Kieren Perkins and Alex Popov have much in common. They are the only two surviving gold medallists from Barcelona in 1992, the only ones in reach of the title "first man to win three consecutive Olympic gold medals in the pool", and both have done it tough of late.
Dawn Fraser was the first swimmer to do the treble, and Hungary's backstroke diva Krisztina Egerszegi in 1996 became the second woman. No man since the father of surfing, Duke Kahanamoku, who won the 100m freestyle in 1912 and 1920 and a silver medal in 1924, has approached the feat.
The first half of this year has underlined to Popov and Perkins the depth of commitment it requires.
The 26-year-old Popov, winner of the 50m and 100m freestyle in 1992 and 1996, is still limping after minor knee surgery in January, and he went to last month's world short-course championships to "participate".
The 25-year-old Perkins, dual Olympic 1500m freestyle champion, was devastated when he finished behind world champion Grant Hackett in third place at the national championships in March.
Since then, Perkins has taken a hard look at his preparation. Two weeks ago he began working with a strength and conditioning trainer for the first time (Ian King from the Queensland Reds rugby union team).
His coach John Carew also urged him to talk with the only other man in the world in his position, Canberra-based Popov. They got together at last week's Telstra Grand Prix meet.
While they compete at opposite ends of the freestyle spectrum, their lives and careers have run parallel in the past decade – not only in gold medals but in marriage and first-time fatherhood.
"We have hit similar milestones at the same time, although he always beats me by a few days," Perkins said wryly.
"Now I guess we are a couple of old fellows being hounded by youngsters everywhere we go. We didn't get heavily into careers (in conversation); we probably solved the world's ills, more than our own. But it's good to sit down with someone your own age."
Popov admitted that he had also struggled for motivation earlier this year, but one year out from the Games both know they have choices to make.
"I have been at this level for five years, it's time to make a step forward or backward," Popov said as he looked towards next month's Mare Nostrum tour in Europe, scene of his world 100m freestyle record five years ago.
Perkins said his poor 1500m swim at the nationals, which still ranks him in the world's top 10, was his wake-up call. Without it he probably would have "meandered through to Pan Pacs before getting in and doing the work".
He says it is not the training sessions that are the problem, but the need to give his sport priority away from the pool, where he has family and business responsibilities.
"When I come home from training I want to play with my children, but I need to have a sleep," Perkins said.
It may make a one per cent difference to his performance, but that is the gap between Olympic finalist and gold medallist.
"In the last two months I have really applied myself to training and taken more of the 'I need' decisions than the 'I want' decisions," he said.
The renewed dedication is already showing. While in heavy training in Canberra last week, he swam a second faster than he did fully rested at the nationals.
"My stroke felt better, I was much stronger on the water, it was probably getting back to what it was before Atlanta," he said.
The next step is to break 15 minutes at the Pan Pacs in Sydney and put himself back in the ball park with Hackett.
But even if he can get past Hackett on September 23 next year, he's likely to be only the second man to win an Olympic swimming title three times. Popov's 100m freestyle final will be three days earlier.
10/05/99 AAP - Australian Olympic officials will tomorrow start a campaign to try and return the focus of next year's Sydney Games back to the athletes after months of damaging controversy over the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics bid. An Australian Olympic Committee spokesman says a number of media events involving leading sports figures are planned for the coming weeks to remind people about the athletes.
Olympic swimming gold medallists KIEREN PERKINS and SUSAN O'NEILL will be involved in a media event later this month just before Sydney Games tickets go on sale.
The Sunday Telegraph
Kieren Perkins' 1500m freestyle Atlanta Games victory stands out as the most memorable moment in recent Olympics history, a new survey reveals.
And with only 6 weeks to go before tickets for the Olympics go on sale, SOCOG is using images of Perkins' victory in an advertising campaign to increase ticket sales.
"Australians overwhelmingly voted Kieren's win as the most memorable Olympic moment in recent history," said SOCOG chief executive Sandy Holloway.
"Kieren is very supportive of the new television commercial and enthusiastic about being involved in helping to explain the excitement of attending the Sydney Olympic Games."
Perkins acknowledged the Australian public's praise and support, saying he was inspired by them to win in Atlanta.
"The support of the Australian public was overwhelming, both before and after the Games," he said.
"Without doubt it helped inspire me to win gold for Australia."
In an attempt to tug at the nation's heart strings, the commercial features Kieren's inspirational back-from-the-dead gold medal swim at the 1996 Olympics.
The commercial also focuses on images of a spectator who describes the heroic Perkins race to his grandson, telling him: "Nobody gave him a hope, but they forgot about the heart of a champion. I had tears rolling down my cheeks."
5 million tickets have been put aside for the Australian public, with at least 70 percent of them costing $60 or less.
The commercial will air nationally tonight.
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