Olympic Hero Kieren Perkins Adds Gold Medal Touch To Australia’s Green And Gold Runway To 2032

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MIDAS TOUCH: Kieren Perkins brings that gold medal touch to the countdown to 2032. Photo Courtesy Swimming Australia.

Olympic Hero Kieren Perkins Adds Gold Medal Touch To Australia’s Green And Gold Runway To 2032

Kieren Perkins remains one of Australia’s greatest Olympic swimmers – a two time gold medallist in the 1500m freestyle in 1992 and 1996 – and now he is a major player in guiding Australian sport towards its third Olympics in his hometown, Brisbane in 2032.

Perkins, now CEO of the Australian Sports Commission, addressed the National Press Club in Canberra on Wednesday, with the same confident, controlled and determined demeanour that made him one of his country’s greats.

In his time at the top, Perkins ruled the pool, setting world records over 400, 800 and 1500m freestyle – his greatest triumph coming in Atlanta when against all the odds he defended his Olympic crown after scraping into the final in lane eight.

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ATLANTA GOLD: Kieren Perkins claims 1500m gold in Atlanta. Photo Courtesy: Hanson Media Collection (Russ McPhedran)

It has gone down in the annals of Australian sport as one of the greatest triumphs in the country’s proud Olympic history – especially in its most successful sport.

Retiring from the sport after his third Olympics in Sydney in 2000 – knowing the thrill and legacy that a home Games can bring.

And from the moment Perkins stepped up to the podium in Canberra he had the nation’s media in the palm of his hand, talking on everything from athlete funding, the pathway to Brisbane, the future of the Games, diversity, the importance of the volunteer brigade and delivering the message of unity and inclusiveness to make the Games memorable.

“I am more excited than ever to be a representative of Australian sport and I truly believe we are entering one of the greatest periods of opportunity in Australian Sporting history and the 2032 Brisbane Olympic and Paralympic Games give us a clear focus,” said Perkins.

“We have begun a green and gold decade of major events on home soil that will showcase the very best of sport.

“The runway towards 2032 is absolutely a gift for our generation, an opportunity to unite and inspire and build the nation through sport, it is a defining area and we as a collective sporting industry and nation must step up and be responsible for the results that come.”

But Perkins was quick to admit that if Australian sport looks the same in 2032 as it does today then “we’ve well and truly missed our assignment – we’ll have lost.”

“Brisbane’s 2032 Olympics should not be viewed as the end of a golden decade of Australian sport but rather a springboard to sustained success,” said Perkins, who believes the 2032 Olympics must inspire a new generation of Australian athletes.

“Our most important job will be to put our these words into action … any game plan in sport is only as good as the way in which you deliver it.

“The reality is that for Australia to establish the world’s best sporting system, none of us here will be able to win alone.

“But if we can all be part of this together, we will achieve remarkable things – not just for sport, but for Australia.”

And increased athlete funding was on Perkins agenda.

“Most athletes don’t make the equivalent of a minimum wage (from their sport) and almost all finish without any superannuation,” Perkins said.

“We want to ensure athletes are not significantly disadvantaged financially during their athletic careers while they pursue success in representing our country.

“The reality is, competing in contemporary international sport requires a full-time workload.

“Many other countries are providing the financial support needed for their athletes to obtain this.”

While Australia invests $150 million a year into 35 performance programs, only $14.6 million goes in direct grants to athletes.

That means the average grant for an athlete is $16,000 a year, with the maximum any can get $35,000.

The two-time Olympic gold medallist confirmed the government had committed to $28.6 million funding over four years for the nation’s Winter Olympic and Paralympic teams, an Australian first.

Perkins spoke about the formation of The Sport Volunteer Coalition to develop an action plan to reimagine the future of sport volunteering.

“Its aim is to recruit and retain the additional 130,000 new volunteers needed over the next decade to manage this magical and major sporting events successfully,” said Perkins.

“Now is the time to put volunteering at the heart of sport to celebrate our current volunteers, reimagine ways to support more people to volunteer and to harness the social and economic value that volunteers do bring.”

Perkins said was important Australia’s sporting sector becomes truly representative of a modern, progressive, and diverse Australia.

“By 2032, if sports still look the same as they do today, I certainly haven’t done my job properly,” said Perkins.

He also believed that Brisbane should look to Sydney as a model for how to “sell” its Olympic Games to the world.

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