By Phillip Whitten
January 2, 2006. "THE International Swimming Hall Of Fame has corrected a glaring oversight, announcing that former distance king Kieren Perkins will be inducted this year, along with Susie O'Neill," according to a story by award-winning swimming writer Nicole Jeffery in tomorrow's edition of The Australian.
Australian officials had expressed bewilderment that Perkins, who retired the same year as O'Neill, was not being inducted when O'Neill was. Glenn Tasker, CEO of Swimming Australia, e-mailed ISHOF president Bruce Wigo last week, asking that normal voting procedures be suspended to allow both Aussie greats to be inducted together at ceremonies in May of this year.
There's no question that Perkins, certainly one of the all-time distance greats, deserves to be in the Hall. The former world record-holder for 1500 meters freestyle, won the metric mile at the 1992 and '96 Olympic Games, and also took second in 2000 as well as in the 400 meters in '92. He also won the 1500 at the 1994 and '98 world championships. Only Grant Hackett, his heir as distance king, has ever swum faster for the 1500.
It turns out Perkins was overlooked by the Hall due to the turmoil surrounding its leadership, finances and its very future over the past two years. Wigo also indicated that ISHOF had used erroneous information indicating that Perkins had competed in 2001. ISHOF rules state that a swimmer must be retired for a minimum of four years before becoming eligible for selection.
An ISHOF statement described Perkins' exclusion as a "hiccup".
In a written statement, Wigo added: "Perkins' competitive record made him one of the all-time greats in his sport and his selection, once eligible, was all but guaranteed."
Jeffery reports that Perkins said Wigo had rung him personally once ISHOF realized its error.
"I would have thought I was hard to miss, but they managed it," the dual Olympic champion Perkins said yesterday.
"It's good to have that rectified and to be on the list. You work hard to swim and win gold medals. That's why you do it. But this other stuff that comes along after is wonderful validation," Jeffery quoted Perkins as saying.
O'Neill and Perkins are the 44th and 45th Australians to be included in the Hall Of Fame.
Tasker said he would campaign for a more rigorous selection process for the Hall Of Fame, as a result of this experience.
"I would like to see them develop a more formal nomination system … so each country can nominate candidates it believes are worthy," he said. "This was a major oversight and an embarrassment to them."
However, current ISHOF nomination rules already allow for such a process.