SWIMNEWS ONLINE: July 1996 Magazine Articles

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Cecil M. Colwin


More than 2,271,000 viewers tuned in to watch Kieren Perkins battle it out with Daniel Kowalski in the 1500 freestyle for a place in the Olympic team.

In Sydney,when the popular program "Hey, Hey It's Saturday" was pre-empted for the event, ratings jumped from 612,000 to 1,022,000 viewers. All the other channels were affected as viewers switched to watch the 1500, the last event of the last day of the Trials.

All over Australia, the ratings were similarly affected. The Nielsen ratings reported 1,043,800 viewers in Melbourne, 579,000 in Brisbane, 267,000 in Adelaide, and 164,000 in Perth. Not since the 1994 Commonwealth Games, when Perkins broke the world 1500 record in Victoria, B.C., had the number of viewers increased so suddenly in so short a time.

"It was incredible," said Channel Nine director of publicity, Andrea Keir (The Daily Telegraph, April, 30, 1996). "Australians have always been very swimming-minded and we were expecting it to be a highly watched event because it was critical to Kieren's inclusion on the team, but we didn't expect anything of this magnitude."

The ratings jump was seen as a good omen for the Seven Network, which will be screening the Olympics later this year.


This was the first time in Australia that domestic swimming received seven consecutive nights of live TV coverage, and the first time that private boxes were sold at a swimming meet. It was also the first time that tickets were sold through Ticketek, the Australian version of Ticketmaster.

A $20,000 screen was mounted at the end of the pool to provide spectators with close-ups of the swimmers as they raced.

Sydney 2000 Olympic pool, site of the 1996 Australian Olympic Trials
For larger 64k photo click on image. Photo © Darin Braybrook/Sport - The Library

The low glass windows of the John Konrads Press Room looked directly on to the pool deck, and housed 100 media representatives from international press agencies and Australian radio, television, and newspapers.

A unique feature of the press room, ably managed by Publicity Director Ian Hanson and his assistant, Alison Roberts, was the on-site fully-equipped photo lab, which allowed photographs to be processed and scanned around the world within minutes of the end of a race.


Graham Hannan, vice-president of the International Management Group, said that, although Kieren Perkins is far more comfortable than most young men of his age, he certainly is not in the millionaire class, and can't afford to take it easy for the rest of his life.

Thanks to his father's advice, Kieren owns his own home, and a healthy investment portfolio. Kieren is said to earn almost $A500,000 a year as a result of major sponsorships from Saab,the Swedish car manufacturers, Eyeline swimwear, National Dairies, and Uncle Toby's breakfast food. With the exception of Uncle Toby's, all these deals will end after the Olympics.

Hannan denied that sponsorship commitments had hindered Kieren's training. He said that Kieren's workload, including the time spent at his part-time job with TV Channel Seven, had been reduced since the end of 1995.

Had Kieren Perkins not made the Australian Olympic Team, he would have lost up to $A100,000 in incentive bonuses for gold medal and world record swims. Furthermore, his corporate value would have been severely reduced.


Present throughout the Trials was a team of 35 sport scientists who analyzed the swimmers' stroke frequency, stroke length and overall velocity, and made the results available to the coaches.

The amount of space given to swimming by Australian newspapers is little short of amazing. The morning after the Perkins-Kowalski 1500 duel, a detailed analysis, complete with graphs showing the stroke length, stroke frequency and velocity recorded by both swimmers over each of the thirty lengths of the pool, appeared in full in The Sydney Morning Herald.

Dr Bruce Mason, head of biomechanical studies at the Australian Institute of Sport, who prepared the report, said that Perkins had used up "too much energy" by lengthening his stroke. "Kieren had a game plan worked out but he could not keep to it because people are not robots. They are influenced by one another."

On the other hand, according to Mason,"Daniel Kowalski was able to stick to his game plan and actually increased both stroke length and velocity at the end of the race. It is unusual for a swimmer to be able to do this."


The various meeting and committee rooms in the Sydney International Aquatic Centre are named after famous Australian swimmers.

Swimming great Dawn Fraser, who held 39 world records during her career, and won the Olympic 100 metres freestyle title at three Olympics, (Melbourne, 1956, Rome, 1960, and Tokyo, 1964),was known not only for her sensational swimming but also for her head-on collisions with Australian officialdom. Now, with typical Aussie whimsy, the officials' room at SIAC has been named "The Dawn Fraser Room." Good on yer, Dawn!

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