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This week's pRATTLE is dedicated to Kieren Perkins, the 1500 metres swimmer who won Gold in Atlanta a few days ago.

Most of you probably don't know who Kieren Perkins is. To the rest of the world, he's probably just another name on the Olympic role. But to Australia, Perkins has reached legend status. He is a Champion, without any doubt.

Now, before you start thinking, "Oh no, this is gonna be all about Australian stuff, which I really don't car about!" it isn't. This is about something else... guts, and focus.

Kieren Perkins won Gold in the 1500 metres in Barcelona '92, with a world record. He beat his own record two years later. But since then, Kieren has been struggling to do anything. When the Olympic team was being picked, Kieren was looking so bad, it was looking unlikely that he would be able to defend his title at Atlanta. The Selectors came out and told us, that Kieren Perkins would not receive any special attention, and that he would have to swim better, or he wouldn't be going to Atlanta.

He scraped in behind his mate, and rival, Daniel Kawalski, and just made it into the side. Most believed he was wasting his ticket.

Everyone started to look at Kawalski, thinking that Perkins had lost it. We all started to bag Perkins as a has been. That attitude, and that focus away from Perkins occured throughout the first week of the Olympics. That week was a shocker for Australia. We had expected tons of Gold medals (just look at last weeks pRATTLE!), and were only getting a couple of Bronze.

Meanwhile, Daniel Kawalski blitzed his way into the 1500 final. Kieren, on the other hand, only just made it through the heats, and only got through the semi-final by less than a second.

So with the rest of the team's "failings", his own very poor form, and Kawalski beating everyone, Kieren stepped into his lane- the eighth lane, which is considered the worst lane.

Kieren Perkins went out hard early. He had an early lead, but we all thought that he was gonna fall away at the end, and finish seventh or something. He didn't. He stayed ahead for the entire swim, and won by about three lengths.

The story of Kieren Perkins is one that we can all learn from. We all have our own 1500 metre swims. We all have our critics, who constantly tell us we will fail. We also have the voice inside our own heads, that tells us that the threat of failure is too powerful for us to succeed.

When Kieren Perkins was asked about it, he said that he just willed himself to win. He told himself he was gonna do it. He stayed in his remote eighth lane, and focused on swimming as he and his coach had organised it. He didn't look behind. He forgot his bad form. And then, he won.

We can stay focused too. As we reach for the stars, sometimes we look down, afraid to fall. But we just have to keep our focus on the prize.

Kieren Perkins wanted that medal. He told us afterwards that he had felt his body aching- really aching- after about 800 metres, and had almost felt like giving up. But then he said that he decided that if he had to finish that race with one arm, he was still going to win. Fight, tooth, claw and nail to reach your goal, and don't let ANYBODY stand in your way. The voices of Kieren Perkins' critics fell quiet when he won that medal. In fact, most of those that had written him off, were calling him a Champion, fifteen minutes after his body hit the pool.

In his interview afterwards, Kieren said, "Hey, if I can win here, I can win anywhere!". Think about this: If Kieren can win, with the weight of bad form, and critics, and an unkind support back in Oz, then we can win. He reached the highest, and most difficult accolade in the world. Few things in this world can ask for more sacrifice, more determination, more GUTS. If he can do it, we can do anything.

Ask yourself, guys, what is your 1500 metre freestyle? Forget the "I can'ts." Focus. Succeed.

You owe it to Kieren to try...

©Copyright, 1996.
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