SPORT

Hackett chases history

A. Vinod

Grant Hackett, nicknamed as ‘The Machine’ by the American media, could still have the arclights trained firmly on him in Beijing even though the aura of invincibility surrounding him may have been somewhat dimmed by Poland’s Mateusz Sawrymowicz at the 2007 World championships in Melbourne.

The Aussie long-distance swimmer’s mission in the Chinese capital will be to create a piece of Olympic history by claiming the 1500m freestyle gold in three consecutive Games.

Though many male swimmers have won the same individual event in back-to-back Games, no one has claimed three-in-a-row.

And the 28-year-old plans to change just that.

Emulate Fraser

Only Dawn Fraser, also from Down Under, remains the lone swimmer to have won three gold medals in a row by winning the 100m freestyle titles at Melbourne (1956), Rome (1960) and Tokyo (1964).

Hackett could well be in line to join his great predecessor as he battles it out with the likes of Sawrymowicz, Russia’s Yuri Prilukov, South Korea’s Park Tae-Hwan, Great Britain’s David Davies and Americans Erik Vendt and Larsen Jensen at the Water Cube in Beijing on August 17.

Having come into the limelight in 1999, winning the World championships 1500m free title for the first time, Hackett was in irresistible form at the 2000 Sydney Games wherein he won over his senior teammate Kieren Perkins by a good five seconds clear of the latter.

Fluent win

In 2004 at Athens, the genial Aussie was a doubtful starter with a partially collapsed lung before he swam home fluently past his immediate rivals.

The World record holder at 14:34.56, Hackett, struggling with injuries at the 2007 Worlds suffered his first defeat in ten years over his favourite distance.

However, at the Australian trials he was back into his known form, winning the 200m, 400m and 1500m free with ease.

In Beijing, he is not likely to race in the 200m, in an attempt to concentrate on his dream.

In fact, there is a lot of expectation about this race already what with observers looking upon all the eight finalists to go down the 15-minute mark for the first time in Olympic history.

It remains to be seen if Hackett would be able to outpace the rest of the field for a third consecutive time.

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