ALO Column: Kieren Perkins

26 February 2012

Lane 8, 1500m freestyle, Atlanta 1996... You know the rest of the story! Kieren Perkins lit up the history books with his second Olympic gold medal. Having struck gold in the 1500m at the 1992 Barcelona Games, Perkins became the first Australian since Dawn Fraser to defend an individual Olympic swimming title.

Wrapping up his Olympic campaigning with silver in the 1500m in 2000, Perkins returns to the Olympic fray ten years on as an Athlete Liaison Officer (ALO) alongside surfing legend Layne Beachley, former rugby captain John Eales, former cricket captain Steve Waugh and Team Motivator Laurie Lawrence.

Perkins will cover ten Olympic sports including archery, equestrian, gymnastics, modern pentathlon, shooting, taekwondo, volleyball, beach volleyball, wrestling and of course swimming in a mentoring capacity. It is a poignant appointment for the Queenslander. On his Olympic debut in 1992 Perkins drew inspiration from dual Olympian and four-time gold medallist Murray Rose. As an ALO for the Team in 2012, it is now Perkins who is the role model.

How do you feel about returning to the Olympic scene?

For me it is about being a part of the Team- being in the Village, being able to have access to headquarters and have access to events, and being down at ‘athlete level’ because that is where it is all happening. You can actually walk into a venue and be there at the same level as the athletes in the facilities, in the venues- that is a pretty rarefied air and it is extraordinary to think about being there again.

What can we expect from the mighty Australian Swim Team in London?

I think as always we have a great group of swimmers that will be over in London representing us. It is going to be really interesting to see the younger faces that come into the Team. That is one of the things about an Olympic year- there is always this renewal, these kids that are coming through and making great breakthroughs so that is always exciting to see.

But it is going to be a challenging Games. Great Britain really picked up their act, plus America, China, Germany- they are always big challenges for us, so it will be a tough Games on English home soil. But at the same time, we do love nothing better than beating the Poms so we will have just as much motivation to win!

In the Australia versus Great Britain rivalry, which event do you really want to see us win?

I know that the biggest kudos always goes to the relays. If you have that depth of team and you are able to actually put together a winning relay team, it holds an amazing amount of esteem and that is where a lot of the big bragging rights will come out. It is great to get the individual gold medals but the relays will be the ones that get the most airplay that is for sure!

With Olympic selection trials for swimming starting next week, who are you looking forward to watching?

I have never seen James Magnussen racing fully rested so I am looking forward to seeing how he goes. And I’m always going to have a soft spot for the guys I raced with. I’m really interested to see how Leisel (Jones) goes, and Libby (Trickett) is making her comeback to get on the Team, Geoff (Huegill) has been doing really well so it will be great to see what he does, and Ian (Thorpe) and Michael (Klim) as well. I’m looking forward to watching all these guys who I used to swim with who are still at it. That’s pretty nice to have that close connection as well.

As told to Taya Conomos

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