Hackett Withdraws from Commonwealth Games, Undergoes Surgery, Plots Comeback

November 15. DISTANCE king Grant Hackett underwent successful surgery on his right shoulder yesterday at The Avenue hospital in Melbourne in a bid to end the constant pain he has endured for a year.

At a press conference Monday, Hackett announced that he was undergoing corrective surgery for his shoulder and thus was forced to withdraw from the Commonwealth Games, scheduled for Melbourne in February. In Australia, the Commonwealth Games are considered second in importance only to the Olympics and receive the same type of blanket media coverage. So Hackett's withdrawal dealt a major blow to Aussie hopes for the Games.

Hackett, world record-holder for 800 and 1500 meters freestyle, told reporters he had been buoyed by the support he had received from teammates and other sports stars. He also urged his likely replacements to seize their opportunity at the Commonwealth Games.

"It's a great opportunity for younger athletes to step up and have a chance to make the team for an international event," Hackett, 25, said.

Asked his advice for his replacements, he said: "I'd say to them, 'Make the most of that because it doesn't come around very often and I don't intend to be out for too long'."

Actually, Hackett's withdrawal makes Welshman David Davies the odds-on favorite to take the 1500 meters.

Hackett was already talking about his comeback when he arrived at The Avenue Hospital, commenting: "I'm actually quite excited about the fact that I'm going to get fixed up and there'll be no more niggling shoulder problems. Hopefully the recovery is fast because I still really enjoy training and I miss it when I'm away from it.

"Next year I'm just going to put my head down and train because when you come back, people think you automatically have a free pass to and be at the top.

"I'd love to have a comeback where I don't get back to my best, but beyond it."

Hackett said he hoped to be in the water, just kicking, by the end of December.