Kieren Perkins

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Kieren Perkins
Personal information
Full name Kieren John Perkins
Nationality  Australia
Born (1973-08-14) 14 August 1973 (age 40)
Height 194 cm (6 ft 4 in)[1]
Weight 90 kg (200 lb)
Sport
Sport Swimming
Stroke(s) Freestyle
Club Commercial

Kieren John Perkins OAM (born 14 August 1973), is a former Australian professional swimmer. One of the world's best-ever long-distance swimmers, he won two Olympic gold medals in 1992 and 1996 in the 1500-metre freestyle, and a silver medal in 2000.

Early life[edit]

Perkins was born in Brisbane, Australia. He attended Indooroopilly State Primary School and graduated from Brisbane Boys' College in the inner city suburb of Toowong.

He began swimming regularly at age eight as part of his rehabilitation from a serious leg injury incurred after running through a plate glass window. At age 13 his potential became obvious, and with coach John Carew guiding him he won his first medal at the Australian Championships in Melbourne in 1989, before going on to claim the Silver Medal in the 1500 metre freestyle at the 1990 Commonwealth Games in Auckland, New Zealand. It was here that Perkins emerged as a future star by finishing behind fellow Queenslander Glen Housman. Both Houseman (14:55.25) and Perkins (14:58.08) were the only swimmers to break 15 minutes. Fellow Australian Michael McKenzie completed the Green and Gold medal trifecta by claiming the Bronze with a time of 15:09.25. It was the first time Perkins had recorded a sub-fifteen-minute 1500 metres.

Career[edit]

After the Commonwealth Games, Perkins' career took off. He was clear favourite to win the 1500m at the 1991 World Aquatics Championships in Perth, but was sensationally beaten in the final by just 0.22 seconds by German Jörg Hoffmann who set a new World Record time of 14:50.36 to beat Russian Vladimir Salnikov's eight year old record (Salnikov's record had actually been broken by Glen Housman at the 1990 Australian Championships in Adelaide, although a malfunction with the electronic timer saw the new record time disallowed).

By 1992 Perkins dominated the 1500m event, lowering Hoffmann's World Record in Sydney with a time of 14:48.40. He dominated the event at the Barcelona Olympic games, lowering his record by 5 seconds to 14:43.48 (Housman claimed the Silver with Hoffman relegated to the Bronze). He was also the world record holder in the 400m freestyle, but this was broken by the Russian Yevgeny Sadovyi in Barcelona who relegated Perkins to the Silver medal.

At the 1994 Commonwealth Games in Victoria, Canada, Perkins broke the 400m, 800m, and 1500m freestyle world records (lowering his 1500 mark to 14:41.66). The 800m record was broken while swimming the 1500m event meaning he broke two records in the one race (the 800m was not actually an event at the games). The 400m record stood until it was broken by fellow Australian Ian Thorpe in 1999, and the 800m and 1500m records until 2001 when broken by Thorpe and Grant Hackett respectively. His performances in that year earned him the Male World Swimmer of the Year award from the Swimming World magazine.

At the time of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, Perkins was out of form and long-time Australian rival Daniel Kowalski was regarded as the favourite. In fact he almost failed to make the Australian team, such was his poor form. He qualified for the 1500 metre freestyle final by a mere 0.24 seconds to be the slowest of the top 8 qualifiers, and it was later revealed that before the race he felt unwell and considered not swimming. From lane eight, Perkins dominated the race being the only swimmer to go under 15 minutes (14:56.40), again relegating Kowalski, who had to fight all the way and just held off Great Britain's Graeme Smith, to his perennial bridesmaid position. Despite being world record holder, he failed to qualify for the 400m freestyle in April, finishing third at the Australian Championships.

After his Atlanta triumph, some commentators were surprised when Perkins decided to continue competing, particularly as the rise of Grant Hackett, another Australian distance swimmer, made it seem unlikely that Perkins could win again. However, the lure of a home Olympics was too much for Perkins. Hackett completed his rise to the top by beating Perkins, who took the silver medal in a respectable time of under 15 minutes.

Controversy[edit]

During the 1994 Commonwealth Games in Victoria, Canada, Perkins was nearly sent home in disgrace after he fired an air pistol inside the athletes' village. The head coach at the time wanted to send him home, but Australian team boss Arthur Tunstall intervened and he was subsequently allowed to stay.

In 2004, Perkins courted controversy when he stated that he felt the public's pressure for Craig Stevens to give up his spot in order to reinstate defending 400m champion Ian Thorpe to the event after being disqualified was "disgusting".[2]

Recognition[edit]

In the Australia Day Honours of 1992, Perkins was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM). He is an Australian Living Treasure. He was inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 2002.[3]

In 2009 Perkins was inducted into the Queensland Sport Hall of Fame.[4]

Post swim career[edit]

Perkins has always presented a clean-cut, well-spoken image to the public. Since his retirement, he has occasionally worked in the broadcast media and is currently Head of Business Development and Acquisitions at NAB Private Wealth.[5] He is a current board member of Swimming Australia.

Personal life[edit]

He married in 1997 and has three children, Harry, Georgia and Charlie, with wife Symantha. The couple received condolences from a number of people in sports broadcasting after suffering "three miscarriages before having their third child [Charlie], and Symantha underwent radical surgery [in 2007] to combat severe migraines." Symantha has since recovered her health.[6]

In June 2012 he announced he and Symantha had separated.[7] In a May 2014 episode of Australian Story, Perkins announced he would marry partner Karen Davis in Europe in 2014.[8]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Kieren Perkins". sports-reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved 20 January 2014. 
  2. ^ Perkins 'disgusted' at calls for Stevens to step-down
  3. ^ "Kieran Perkins OAM". Sport Australia Hall of Fame. Retrieved 16 December 2013. 
  4. ^ "Mr Kieren Perkins OAM". Queensland Sport Hall of Fame. qsport.org.au. Retrieved 20 January 2014. 
  5. ^ "Kieren Perkins talks teams". sunshinecoastdaily.com.au. Sunshine Coast Newspaper Company. 21 September 2011. Retrieved 31 March 2012. 
  6. ^ Fydler, Rose (3 March 2008), "The Love Jackpot", New Idea 
  7. ^ The Daily Telegraph, 2 June 2012
  8. ^ Murray, Kirstin (26 May 2014). "Coming up for air". ABC News. Retrieved 26 May 2014. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Records
Preceded by
Soviet Union Vladimir Salnikov
Men's 800 metres Freestyle
World Record Holder (Long Course)

5 August 1991 – 26 March 2001
Succeeded by
Australia Ian Thorpe
Preceded by
East Germany Uwe Dassler
Men's 400 metres Freestyle
World Record Holder (Long Course)

3 April 1992 – 29 July 1992
Succeeded by
Olympic flag.svg Yevgeny Sadovyi
Preceded by
Germany Jörg Hoffmann
Men's 1500 metres Freestyle
World Record Holder (Long Course)

5 April 1992 – 29 July 2001
Succeeded by
Australia Grant Hackett
Preceded by
Olympic flag.svg Yevgeny Sadovyi
Men's 400 metres Freestyle
World Record Holder (Long Course)

11 September 1994 – 22 August 1999
Succeeded by
Australia Ian Thorpe
Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Hungary Károly Güttler
World Swimmer of the Year
1994
Succeeded by
Russia Denis Pankratov