Kieren loving life in new fast lane

Author(s):      JOHN BRIGGS
Source:         The Mercury, 07/09/2001

THE alarm buzzed at 4.30am in Kieren Perkins' Sydney home yesterday and for a moment he thought it was time to go training.

It turned out to be another marathon day, with a difference, in the life of the Aussie swimming hero.

By 9.30am he was yawning his way into Hobart airport and an hour later was up to his heels in cow manure at John Bignell's dairy farm at Bream Creek.

Before noon he had sped to Howrah Primary School for a question and answer session with young admirers.

It was then on to a corporate lunch at the Hotel Grand Chancellor, a visit with Hobart's Lord Mayor to the Hobart Aquatic Centre and a trip to Launceston -- with more of the same on today.

Perkins has been in the fast lane most of his life, but there is more to do these days than swim laps of the pool.

The father of two admits his fitness has slipped, his weight has ballooned by more than 10kg and he is coughing his way through a lingering bout of flu.

``The only swimming I've done in the past few months was a few dips in Japan during the world championships -- by any standards I'm an unfit man,'' Perkins said.

The primary purpose of his visit was to launch a stringent new food safety program, Simply the Best.

Perkins is almost as well known as the boy -- and man -- who wrote his name on his milk and remains the Pura Light Start ambassador.

He admits he knows little about dairy cows but insists he knows lots about milk and still drinks it every day.

The Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points Program aims to improve milk production, collection, processing and distribution and puts in place the checks and balances to ensure milk coming from the farm is of the highest quality.

Perkins was in fine form at Howrah Primary, answering dozens of questions and assuring the kids he still loved his milk, kept his Olympic and world championships gold medals under lock and key at the bank and enjoyed the Sydney Olympics the best, despite losing his 1500m crown to Grant Hackett.

There were hundreds of autographs to be signed but the champion never flinched from the task.

``I thought I had escaped the early mornings when I gave up swimming but I'm not complaining -- it's great to meet kids and have a life like this after swimming,'' he said.

After lunch he inspected the Hobart Aquatic Centre and said it would be great for the people of Hobart when it was reopened after fire earlier this year closed it for five months.

This morning he has a corporate breakfast in Launceston, then it's off to Punchbowl and Rocherlea primary schools to meet more children.

And late tonight he should be home in Sydney sipping a glass of milk before bed.

Copyright 2001 / The Mercury, Hobart