Time on Perkins' side (30/08/00)
Perkins at Melbourne Grand Prix (26/08/00)
No letup in training for Kieren's Birthday (14/08/00)
'World record' for Kieren at QLD Championships (07/08/00)
Kieren has no reason to quit (01/08/00)
Kieren tipped to carry flag (25/07/00)
Time on Perkins' side
MELBOURNE, AAP: In the tense final minutes before Kieren Perkins defends his Olympic 1500m freestyle crown, his coach John Carew will whisper in his ear.
Carew, like usual, will make a request.
He will ask the 1992 and 1996 Olympic gold medallist to swim a particular time.
It will be a time thought achievable based on Perkins' efforts at training and his physical condition, and a time Carew thinks will be fast enough to beat world champion Grant Hackett.
Perkins' sole mission over the 30-lap race will be to clock that time, or better.
"If he fails (to win) then it's my fault because I've set the plan," Carew said at the Australian team's training camp at the Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre.
"I've told him what time he can swim every time he's swum, when he goes into the marshalling area. You've seen him on the blocks - he knows how to relax, he knows how to focus - all I do is say 'I want you to go through in this time' and invariably he does do it. We don't worry about anybody else, we set our own plan."
Asked what time he would tell Perkins at the Games, Carew grinned and replied: "Fast enough to win."
Perkins, chasing a third Olympic 1500m title, will ride a wave of national support into his clash with Hackett, South African Ryk Neethling and American Erik Vendt.
Carew claimed he would be satisfied if either of the Australians won.
"So long as it's one-two, so long as Grant Hackett and Kieren Perkins come one-two in any order for Australia then I'll be happy," he said. "They both get on very well, I think they'd like to win but if they don't, they'd like the other to win."
Perkins was given little hope in Atlanta when he sneaked into the final but his heroic victory has become a part of Australian sporting folklore.
"Kieren can lift himself when necessary, all great athletes have the capacity to find another gear that you don't think is there," Carew said.
Chants of "Kieren, Kieren" echoed around the Sydney International Aquatic Centre when Hackett beat Perkins at the Australian selection trials but Hackett's coach, Denis Cotterell, claimed his pupil was unfazed. Cotterell also held the same team-first philosophy as Carew.
"Kieren has set the benchmark, he's lifted the standard for Australian swimming and has always provided the inspiration," he said. "And that he's still here to push right to the very death, whether it's for Kieren's win or for Grant's ... hopefully their rivalry will shut out the opposition."
Perkins at Melbourne Grand Prix
In the 400m heats Kieren qualified 2nd fastest for the final with 3:59.01 - just 0.04 seconds slower than Kowalski but more than 4 sec ahead of arch-rival Hackett.
1 KOWALSKI, DANIEL 3:58.97
2 PERKINS, KIEREN 3:59.01
3 HACKETT, GRANT 4:04.39
In the 400m final Kieren swam 3:52.92 to finish 2nd, 1 sec behind Hackett, but 2 sec ahead of Kowalski. While Hackett will swim the 400 at the Olympics Perkins won't and has been training exclusively for the 1500m. However both he and Hackett will not swim the 1500m final tomorrow - Hackett pulled out several days before the meet, and Perkins decided not to swim it today. Kieren has been working very hard on his turns, given the revelation that on free swimming time he beat Hackett by 6sec at trials but lost 10sec on the turns [see article below].
Kieren and the rest of the Australian swimming team are now in a training camp in Melbourne until they go to Sydney for the Olympics. Kieren has already helped out Ian Thorpe and the other first time Olympic swimmers on the team - an Australian Swimming official said Perkins addressed his rookie teammates as a group, speaking about his first Olympics at Barcelona in 1992, when he got swept up in all the excitement and started running around like a kid in a lolly shop.
"Kieren's message was that no matter how many times he was told not to get carried away, he got a bit carried away," the official said. "His advice was that all the fun will still be there when you've finished competing."
"When somebody like him speaks, you can imagine how closely everybody was listening."
No letup in training for Kieren's Birthday
AAP - Dual Olympic swimming champion Kieren Perkins had no letup in training today despite it being his 27th birthday.
"It's just another day. There's no days off. It's business as usual," Perkins said after a 7.5km morning training session.
The triple world recordholder has been in heavy training leading into next month's Sydney Games with his eyes firmly set on winning an unprecedented third 1500m freestyle gold.
"I can't afford to letup on him for his birthday," said Kieren's coach, John Carew.
"He did the full session this morning and he'll do the full session this afternoon."
Turning it on
An Australian Institute of Sport biomechanic has statistical evidence indicating Kieren Perkins is a genuine chance of retaining his Olympic 1500m freestyle crown.
Dr Bruce Mason used an AIS computer analysis system to dissect every second of Perkins' race against world champion Grant Hackett at the Australian Olympic Trials on May 20.
The results are startling.
Hackett (14min56.35sec) beat dual Olympic champion Perkins (15:01.14) by 4.5 seconds, but Dr Mason's eight-page summary reveals Perkins lost a whopping 10.32sec because of poor turns.
He spent 246 seconds of the 30-lap race doing turns, measured from 7-1/2 metres either side of the wall, while Hackett took only 236 seconds.
Perkins' free swimming time - which excludes the start, turns and finish - was more than six seconds quicker than Hackett.
"Put it this way, I wouldn't be putting money on Kieren not winning the gold because he's a true champion, he can dig very deep and he won't be sitting back and saying `Oh, it will all come good,'" said Dr Mason, the head biomechanic at the AIS.
"Kieren is a very bright cookie and he knows what's going on and you can bet if that's his weakness, he's doing something about it. He'll be putting the work in."
Read Kieren Perkins interview from 13th Aug 2000
'World record' for Kieren at QLD Winter Championships
A blushing Kieren Perkins went out on a victorious note in probably the final Brisbane appearance of his career yesterday - by winning a women's race in world record time.
The King of Australian swimming found himself racing training partner Hayley Lewis and girls as young as 13 after he overbalanced at the start of the men's 400m freestyle at the Queensland winter titles at Chandler and was disqualified for breaking the one-start rule.
However, officials were aware Perkins, who missed the recent Brisbane Grand Prix with a rib injury, desperately needed race practice before the Olympics.
After initially considering a solo time trial for him, they decided instead to squeeze him into a vacant lane in the women's 400m event.
"At first I thought that was a real laugh, but then I found myself parading out with the girls and I thought 'this is pretty embarrassing'," Perkins said.
So, while his opponents limbered up behind their blocks, Perkins shyly hung back, pretending he was just strolling by.
"I wanted it to look like I wasn't really out there with them," said Perkins, whose Olympic team-mates want him to carry the Australian flag at the opening ceremony.
His embarrassment was mild compared with the emotions of the youngest swimmer, Jessica Evans, 13.
"When I woke up this morning, I was shaking because I knew I had to race Hayley Lewis," Jessica said.
"Then they told me I was racing Kieren Perkins as well. I just said 'Oh no!' It was really freaky but I guess not many girls can say they raced against Kieren Perkins at the Queensland titles."
Jessica finished 42 seconds behind the bashful Perkins - who clocked 4:00.04 which is much faster than Janet Evans' world record for women's 400m freestyle.
"Better to do this today than on September 23 [Olympic 1500m final]" said Kieren.
Lewis, who won the women's race 19 seconds behind Perkins, seized upon the heaven-sent opportunity to tease her training partner.
"Kieren won't live this down, I promise you," Lewis laughed.
Kieren has no reason to quit, may swim on after Sydney
By Wayne Smith, News Ltd.
Kieren Perkins might yet have one last surprise to spring in a career built on surprises. He might swim on after the Sydney Olympics.
In the minds of his legions of fans, the script already has been written for him, with Perkins winning his third consecutive Olympic 1500m freestyle title in Sydney and then retiring to bask in the sort of adulation Australians reserve only for the likes of Sir Donald Bradman and Dawn Fraser.
All Perkins has to do is play his role and speak his lines. And if he loses to Grant Hackett, well, all the more reason for him to exit the stage.
Perkins is well aware of what is expected of him and in all probability will happily adhere to the script, particularly if the first scenario is played out and he becomes the first male swimmer in history to win the same Olympic title three times in succession. But it rankles with him that Australia is preparing the mother of all farewell parties for him, yet no one has checked with him that he wants to go.
"There is every chance that I will come out of Sydney and – win, lose or draw – have enjoyed the experience so much that I just know I can't walk away from it, know that I want to do it again," Perkins said.
"We've got some good meets coming up in the next couple of years. There are only two more years until the next Commonwealth Games and they take the top three (in each event) to that."
He conceded he would continue only if he was still able to command a place in the Australian team although, given that he currently is ranked No.2 in the world in the 1500m freestyle, that would not appear a problem. Nor is his age – he turns 27 on Aug 14.
"Phil Rogers is 29," he said. "Fydes (Chris Fydler) is 28. Even Susie is older than me. See, I'm a youngster, a spring chicken."
Certainly Perkins has made no serious plans for his future should the curtain close on his swimming career next month, other than continuing to build up his sports management company and reactivating his work in television which he enjoyed.
He had hoped to move on to the IOC but those hopes were dashed when the AOC's Athletes Commission selected Susie O'Neill as its candidate. Perkins always had been the more outspoken athlete and the choice left a lot of people stunned – Perkins among them.
"Yes, I was disappointed," he said. "The only explanation that's been given to me was simply that they needed to make sure that the person who was put forward by Australia would get voted in and they felt Susie had the better international reputation and was more likely to win in Sydney and therefore was more likely to get voted in. It's a pretty convenient explanation."
Perkins admits his reluctance to categorically state his career will end in Sydney stems mainly from a "never say never" feeling. He had gone into the 1996 Olympics planning to announce his retirement immediately afterwards and then surprised himself when he realised he wanted to continue. He is simply making allowances for similar feelings next month.
But he also has come to resent the pressure applied to athletes in his position, from the media and the public, to get out before they ruin their careers and reputations. "How many times have you read that people are telling Greg Norman he should retire?" Perkins asked.
"He's past it. He's not going to win any more. Why is he still out there doing it?
"He's doing it because he's a bloody amazing golf player who loves what he does. Why should he not be allowed to enjoy it?
"That is something that I have been conscious of at this time, going into Sydney. You get the comments: 'Why is he doing it? Why does he want to go out on a low? Or go out without winning his last race?' Well, why shouldn't I? What difference does it make? I've still achieved all those other things. If I don't make the Olympic final, I've still got two Olympic gold medals. They don't cease to exist. And I love what I do."
Not that Perkins is thinking he will fail to qualify for the Olympic final. Indeed, he is thinking of nothing less than winning gold, although that, he says, is part of the psychology of being an athlete – never accepting that a win is beyond him. "You are optimistic to the point of blind devotion but at the same time, when it's all said and done, you've got to be realistic about where you are and what you've achieved."
Curiously, all that he achieved in Barcelona and Atlanta has not lightened his load for Sydney. Just the opposite, and the load is mostly self-imposed. "Other people's expectations don't play that large a role," he said. "How I think I should perform is probably where most of the expectation comes from.
"So, from that point of view, I think in a lot of ways I'm probably under a little more pressure now than I was in the other two Olympics just because the chance of a win this time is so much more unlikely."
Yet while he remains clear-headed about the odds stacked against him, his faith in himself is unshakable.
"I know I have the talent and the ability to win. It's a matter of all the ingredients falling into place at the right time."
"...I'm an athlete and a competitor. I'm not afraid of anyone. When I'm in the water and it's all happening, I do whatever I have to do to win."
Perkins public favourite to carry flag
A pool of readers of News Ltd newspapers and visitors to their website has found that Kieren Perkins is overwhelmingly the favourite to carry the Australian flag at the Olympic opening ceremony, he polled 58% of the vote with the 2nd place getter (Andrew Gaze) only polling 16%. This comes after last week's poll of the Australian Olympic team who nominated Perkins more than twice as much as anyone else.
A poll of the Australian Olympic Team has found that Australian athletes overwhelmingly want Kieren Perkins to carry the Australian flag at the 2000 Olympic opening ceremony. Perkins got more than twice as many votes as the runner up, Olympic silver medallist Cathy Freeman.
Naturally Kieren was delighted to hear the news. "That's wonderful news. I hope the AOC listens to the voice of the people. I would love nothing more. It would be the ultimate honour to lead the Australian team in [to the stadium]. I know how exciting it was in Malaysia [1998 Commonwealth Games]. I was as sick as a dog, but nothing was going to stop me. Sydney would be 1000 times better."
Kieren gained a taste of the excitement at Stadium Australia when he attended the Bledisloe Cup match there after the Pan Pacs last year. "The atmosphere that night was just amazing. The stadium is awesome, just incredible."
Despite the choice of the athletes however, it is AOC president John Coates' sole responsibility to name the flagbearer and he is expected to announce his decision just days before the opening ceremony.
This year there has been a push for Cathy Freeman due to her Aboriginal heritage. However John Coates has hinted that the choice will come from those athletes which have attended 3, 4 or 5 Olympics.
"We look at what sort of role model the person has been and how they conducted themselves at past Olympics," he said.
Rumour believes that lighting the Olympic flame is a toss up between Kieren and Dawn Fraser, but that Kieren will be given the flag job so Fraser can light the flame. (Though it would be better if Kieren lit the flame, IMO :)
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