Michael Klim The Dad Still A Pillar Of Power As Australia Counts Down to Sydney Celebrations

Michael Klim with kids Stella,13 Frankie 7 and Rocco 10
TAKING THE PLUNGE: Relay king Michael Klim with kids Stella,13 Frankie 7 and Rocco 10. Photo Courtesy Michael Klim Collection

Michael Klim became as synonymous in Sydney in 2000 as the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House – standing tall as the pillars of an Olympic city, brimming in national pride.

And the up-comimg 20th Anniversary of the Games will bring an even greater joy as the world comes to terms with the horrors of this global pandemic – with Sydney emerging as a light at the end of a COVID tunnel that has haunted our lives in 2020.

Australia remembers Klimmy as….

A bald brand of power and precision coupled with the laugh of a loveable larrikin – the front man in a band of men who stood tall in a decade of dominance and who “smashed ’em like guitars” on the opening night of the Games.

A men’s team that had captured the imagination of a nation obsessed with swimming in the lead up and during those Games.

KLIM BAND LEADER IN SYDNEY

BAND OF BROTHERS: Front man Michael Klim leads the post race celebrations that rocked the joint down at Sydney Olympic Park on the opening night of the Sydney 2000 Games. Photo Courtesy: GETTY/ALL SPORT Darren England.

A star-studded group of Dolphins that had been led by “The King” Kieren Perkins and two youngsters that were chomping at his throne – Ian Thorpe and Grant Hackett.

A support team including Daniel Kowalski, Bill Kirby, Todd Pearson, Chris Fydler and Ashley Callus who joined what had become a powerful force in one of the most exciting eras in the sport.

An era that many believe will never be repeated.

For eight fabulous days the world of swimming became magnetized to Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic Centre for the Games of the 27th Olympiad.

And for just 24 hours Australia’s heralded men’s swim team held the swimming world in the palms of its hands – as the fastest freestylers in the world.

Klim had set up Australia’s historic 4x100m freestyle relay gold alongside Thorpe, Fydler and Callus, with a spectacular world record lead off time of 48.12 and albeit briefly, the Dolphins held every world record from 100m to 1500m and in both the freestyle relays.

He would later join Thorpe, Pearson and Kirby to add gold and the world record in the 4x200m.

Kilm will return to Australia for the 20 year celebrations in September from his home in Bali as the world continues to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Michael Klim with kids Rocco 10, Frankie 7 and Stella,13

KLIMMY AND HIS KIDS: Olympic hero Michael Klim with his kids Rocco 10, Frankie 7 and Stella,13 lapping up some family time in his beloved Bali. Photo Courtesy: Michael Klim Collection.

Now at 42, Michael spends his time between Bali and Australia – Bali where he loves to spend as much time as possible with his three children, daughters Stella 13, Frankie, seven and 10-year-old son Rocco.

He is often back in Australia for his business interests in the health, fitness, wellness and swimming industries with his skin care company Milk and Co – and his recently launched KLIM brand now in its 11th year and his partnerships in the KLIM growing ocean swim events and swims clinics.

There will be celebrations of those Sydney triumphs and an even greater celebration for the former powerhouse who has been inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame this year – honouring his extraordinary feats.

It is more than two decades since the Polish born boy from Down Under who burst on to the scene to make the 1996 Atlanta Olympic team, overcoming his disappointing debut to eventually unleash all his power in both freestyle and butterfly events –charging towards 59 major international medals – 28 of them gold.

He was named International Swimmer of the Year in 1998 and twice named Australian Swimmer of the Year in 1997 and 1998.

Michael Klim with medals 1998 Worlds

MAN OF THE MOMENT: The 1998 World’s in Perth was the making of the man and the personality – with seven medals from seven events and Swimmer of the Meet. Photo Courtesy: Darrin Braybrook

Klim recalls that the ’98 Worlds defined him as a swimmer and as a personality when he won seven medals from seven events – four of those medals were gold in the individual 100m butterfly and 200m freestyle, the 4x100m medley relay and 4x200m freestyle relay.

He also added silver in the 100m freestyle behind training partner Alex Popov and 4x100m freestyle (with the Aussies beaten a finger nail by the US) and bronze in the 50m freestyle where he dead heated with Ricky Busquets in a one-lap dash that saw Bill Pilczuk win the gold from Popov -capping off a remarkable week in the pool.

An outdoor meet in Perth and alongside a 15-year-old in Ian Thorpe and a 17-year-old Grant Hackett who chimed in with historic individual golds of their own; Thorpe in the 400m freestyle and Hackett in the 1500m freestyle – steps that would lay the foundations of that golden era for all of them.

“It was the week that shaped my identity, I was a big fan of swimming outdoors, it’s a summer sport and here we were outdoors in Australia in January,” said Klim, who was named the Fina Swimmer of the meet.

““When I woke up in the morning of the 100m butterfly heats I knew I was so well prepared; I felt so fresh. I was just in the zone. Then I remember the final that night with the Fremantle Doctor (local wind) picking up, it was a wonderful night.

“I had opened up with the 200m freestyle and it gave me a huge confidence boost and I was in the zone from then on – we just got on a roll – it was a meet I’ll always remember with great fondness.”

The 200m freestyle saw Klim go head-to-head with another rising star in Flying Dutchman Pieter Van den Hoogenband but it was Klim who unleashed his new found straight arm power stroke, developed with coach Gennadi Touretski who remained under world record pace for the first 175 metres – swimming away from “Hoogie” who had no answers.

M4x2 RelayPerth '98

ROAR EMOTION: Michael Klim, Grant Hackett and Ian Thorpe showing all their emotions as Daniel Kowalski swims Australia to 4x200m freestyle gold in Perth in 1998. Photo Courtesy: Darrin Braybrook.

He led off the 4x200m freestyle relay that saw Thorpe and Hackett in two and three and Kowalski on the end and they swam away from the field with the Americans having no answers.

It was the start of a dynasty that would see Australia dominate the next two World Championships in Fukuoka and Barcelona and the Sydney Olympics in 2000 where Klim combined with Thorpe and WA boys Todd Pearson and Bill Kirby to smash the world record.

Klim would go on to set four world records – including that memorable lead off in a relay moment for many Australians when they combined to sink the Americans was the defining moment of those Games.]

It was the first time the Australians had won that blue ribband freestyle relay and they did it in front of a record crowd of 17,500 people who crammed into the Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic Centre that night with millions more watching world wide.

An event the Americans had owned for the previous seven times it had been swum with Australia taking bronze in 1964 and 1968 and silver in 1984.

MENS 4x100m SYDNEY 2000

HAIL THE HEROES: Australia’s men’s 4x100m freestyle relay team Ashley Callus, Chris Fydler, Michael Klim and Ian Thorpe. Photo Courtesy: GETTY IMAGES/ALL SPORT Darrin England.

But this was a win of extraordinary proportions – with a real America’s Cup sense of achievement.

“Every year the boys text message each other and we remind ourselves just how good we were on that day,” said Klim, with his typical laugh.

“We see each other quite often, Chris and Ian and myself got together recently and we are getting more nostalgic with time, recalling the moments and the memories.

“Ash is busy coaching but he loves to join us when he can and reminisce about what was a special night for us all.

“At the time I don’t think we really appreciated the moment and what affect it actually had on the Australian community and on Australian families.

“It’s not until you put on a Clinic with all the younger ones and you realise the impact it really had. When I am talking, I actually build a lot around the relay and doing it as a team and for your mates.”

Bali shop pic

HAND OUT: Michael Klim gives a helping hands at the local food stalls in Bali. Photo Courtesy: Michael Klim.

Klim has experienced his COVID-19 life in Indonesia.

“I guess being based in Bali, we’ve been quite insulated from a lot of the bigger numbers, and also the information coming from the mainland is a little bit scarce,” Klim said in a recent interview with Australia’s 7 Network.

 

“There’s been a little bit of a mass exodus of ex-pats that have headed back to their home countries, but there’s also been a big number that have stayed.”

According to Michael, Bali’s cases have been pretty stable at the moment – and businesses are slowly starting to reopen on the island renowned as a tourist hotspot.

“There’s definitely been no tourists around at the moment.

“But the beaches have reopened, which is a great thing for Bali and also the ex-pats and the locals.

“The businesses are slowly starting to reopen as well in terms of hospitality, which is giving us a chance to get out.

“But we’re still keeping the social distancing rules in place.

“There’s no tourists around which is obviously impacting on the economy, which is struggling a little bit, but from an ex-pat’s point of view, we’re getting life back to normal slightly.

“Especially with school holidays around the corner, the kids get to go to the beach and play sports and things like that. It’s really important for them to keep their normal life routine as well.”

And of his Hall of Fame induction?

“It’s a tremendous honour, being inducted in the same year as Jon Sieben who was someone I looked up to as a kid growing up,” Klim said.

“Only a handful of swimmers get inducted every year, so for me, it’s something I can almost not verbalise.

“To be recognised amongst your peers is something really special.

“Unfortunately, due to COVID, we won’t be able to have the event – but it’ll be rescheduled for next year….”

Chicago Bulls

BOYS IN THE BULL RING: Grant Hackett, Michael Klim and Ian Thorpe in Athens in 2004. Photo Courtesy: Jeff Crowe (AOC).

Recently, Michael shared a photo on Instagram of himself, Ian Thorpe and Grant Hackett from Athens in 2004 – comparing themselves to the Chicago Bulls as they were the most successful swim team in history.

“Everyone had their own strength and confidence, and I think success bred success at that time,” Klim said.

“If your teammate was achieving great things, you felt that you could do the same thing.

“We had an era of the likes of Kieren Perkins, Susie O’Neill, Grant Hackett, Ian Thorpe, Leisel Jones, Geoff Huegill – all of these names were household names.

“I think we had the same code of values when it came to training and everything, so it was a very special time.”

A time he can’t wait to celebrate when he joins his team mates some 20 years on – a special post pandemic reunion that will add even more meaning to “the time of their lives.”

Michael Klim fashion shoot 2

ICE COOL: Michael Klim the fashion guru. Photo Courtesy: Michael Klim.

 

 

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