MELBOURNE, Australia, September 3. WITH each passing day, the Beijing Olympics creep closer. And, with each competition, it appears Grant Hackett is back to top form and on the verge of history. A little more than a week after packaging a quality meet at the Japan International, Hackett was dynamite at the Australian Short Course Championships.
In addition to posting the second-fastest time in history in the 800-meter freestyle, thanks to an effort of 7:27.81, Hackett took top honors in the 400 free (3:35.36) and 1500 free (14:23.13). He also took second place in the 200 freestyle (1:43.45) and teamed with Kirk Palmer, Grant Brits and Kenrick Monk for a world record of 6:52.66 in the 800 free relay.
Earlier this year, questions arose as to whether Hackett's best days had passed him by. After all, he was less than spectacular at the World Championships in Melbourne. But, it now appears that Hackett simply did not have the training base nor focus (marriage was impending) to deliver his best performances at the World Champs.
In the time since, Hackett was solid during the Mare Nostrum Series, excelled again at the Japan International and was stellar at the Aussie Short Course Champs. Consequently, Hackett again is the favorite for gold in Beijing in the 1500 free. He's the two-time defending champ in the event and will try to become the first man to win three straight Olympic gold medals in an event. Dutchman Pieter van den Hoogenband is seeking a trifecta in the 100 free.
On top of the metric mile, Hackett figures to be a medal contender in the 400 free, the event in which he won the silver medal in Athens. Sure, Hackett was subpar at the World Championships, but in retrospect, doubting a man of his talent was foolish. He's accomplished too much for one competition to be a sign of demise.