Olympic legend Kieren Perkins Brings His Midas Touch As The 20th President Of Swimming Australia

MIDAS TOUCH: Golden boy of the pool Kieren Perkins, the 20th President of Swimming Australia. Photo Courtesy: The Australian.

Kieren Perkins Named President of Swimming Australia

At the end of  a tumultuous fortnight and a week tinged with sadness and yesterday’s shock positive drugs test, there is finally some light emerging at the end of the tunnel for swimming in Australia.

The unveiling today of Olympic swimming legend Kieren Perkins OAM as the 20th president of Swimming Australia could well prove to be the midas touch the sport has been searching for.

Kieren Perkins 1500m freestyle 1992 Barcelona

FIST COMPETITOR: Kieren Perkins celebrates his Olympic 1500m freestyle gold in Barcelona in 1992. Photo by: Russell McPhedran (Hanson media Collection).

At 47, Perkins takes over from retiring president, fellow Olympian, yachtsman John Bertrand, who resigned from his post last month after a seven-year reign.

And it comes just days after the sad passing of legendary coach Don Talbot at 87 – the man who presided over an era which saw Perkins dominate world distance swimming in the 1990s.



But the two-time Olympic 1500m freestyle gold medallist from Barcelona and Atlanta has dived into a baptism of fire following yesterday’s staggering revelation that Australia’s 2008 Beijing silver medallist and 2012 London Olympian Brenton Rickard had returned a positive doping test at those Games eight years ago.


Relay heat swimmer Rickard faces an IOC hearing and will vigorously fight the charges that could well see his 4x100m medley relay team mates stripped of their bronze medals.

Perkins knows what it’s all about to roll his sleeves up and fight for your life – producing one of the greatest performances in Olympic history with his gold medal swim to win the 1500m from lane eight in Atlanta in 1996.

Perkins appointment completes a major shake-up in Swimming’s corridors of power which has seen:

HEAD coach Jacco Verhaeren return home to the Netherlands after presiding over the Dolphins since 2013, succeeded by Victorian Olympic coach, Rohan Taylor, who will guide the team to Tokyo in 2021.

THE ELECTION of three new directors in former Australian Swimming Coaches And Teachers Association (ASCTA) president Tony Shaw, Swimming Queensland president Michael Cox and former Sports Commission General Manager, Paralympic chief and former journalist Greg Hartung, replacing Bertrand, long serving directors Graeme Johnson and triple Olympian Nicole Livingstone, before;

THE RESIGNATION  of CEO Leigh Russell, with Chief Operating Officer Tim Dempsey standing in as the interim CEO before a comprehensive executive search is undertaken to fill the role while;

PERKINS appointment co-incides with the election of celebrated Learn To Swim Victoria Director and former Paralympic coach Joanne Love as the first female president of the ASCTA – following Shaw’s elevation to the SAL board.

There has been general unrest amongst swimming’s stakeholders for some time and Perkins, a senior banking executive with the National Australia Bank (NAB), over seeing a team of 150 staff, knows what it takes to build a winning team.

He was a member of some of the most successful Australian Swim Teams between 1990 and 2000 – when Team Talbot steered the Dolphins to some memorable success stories in a golden era – having a profound effect on his swimmers.

Perkins saw the passion and team spirit that Talbot brought to the pool deck and says he wants to work on ensuring swimming remained strong in Australia.

“I have a strong desire to maintain swimming’s position as Australia’s most successful Olympic sport and with only a year out from Tokyo it’s important to keep a level of stability and focus,” Perkins said.

“We need to keep building momentum and heading into an Olympic year there is no better opportunity to bring the sport and the country together and inspire future generations.

“More broadly, I would also like to work on connecting the dots within the sport’s wider community – bringing more people to our sport and growing and nurturing the stars of the future through our pathway to the elite.”

Kieren’s Record Breaking Laps Of Honour

Kieren Perkins 2

PIECES OF EIGHT: Kieren Perkins winning Olympic gold from lane eight in Atlanta in 1996. Photo by: Russell McPhedran (Hanson Media Collection).

Perkins is regarded as one of the world’s greatest ever freestyle swimmers who took the 1500 metres freestyle to another level, breaking the world record three times between 1992 and 1994 as well as three times breaking the 800m freestyle and 400m freestyle world records.


His was the name on everyone’s lips in Australia and around the world. Commanding record TV ratings and the front and back pages of Australia’s newspapers.

He was regarded as” the king of the pool”, who was the first swimmer to break 14:50, with his time of 14:48.40 at the Australian Olympic Trials in Canberra in 1992.

But it was only just beginning and at the Olympics later that year in Barcelona, Perkins stopped the clock in a remarkable world record time 14:43.48.

It would be another two years before he would be in the kind of shape to chase his own world record and on August 24, 1994, in Victoria, Canada, Perkins produced one of the most amazing swims in history – setting a new 800m world mark (7:46.00) on the way through to his extraordinary world record for 1500m of 14:41.66.

Just weeks later at the World Champion ships in Rome he would establish one of the greatest records in swimming in the 40909m freestyle, clocking a time of 3:43.80 in a swim regarded by many to be his finest – a time lowered by Ian Thorpe to 3:41.83 some five years later at his record breaking Pan Pacs in Sydney.

Kieren Perkins 92

ROMAN CONQUEROR: Kieren Perkins claims the 400m freestyle world record in Rome in 1994. Photo Courtesy: Fina.

Perkins headlined what he described as a “special era” in distance freestyle in Australia and around the world when the best coaches and athletes in the world collaborated to help each other.

“The success we had in the 90s and 2000s were attributable to the environment created by Don Talbot and Swimming Australia,” recalled Perkins.

“My coach John Carew and Grant Hackett’s coach Denis Cotterell would talk all the time and we would often train together for our betterment.

“They created best practice coaching and it was Glen Housman pushing me and Daniel Kowalski and I pushing each other and then Grant came along.

“It was a case of swimming against and for each other for the full exploration of our potential.”

Talbot’s influence is continuing to have an impact on swimming in Australia and Perkins – a legacy that just might start to turn the tide.


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