Personality: Grant Hackett

Keeping The Rest Of The World At Bay


Anita Lonsbrough

It's been nearly twenty-five years since Tim Shaw, of the US, held world records in the 200, 400, and 1500 freestyle. But Grant Hackett, one of several outstanding freestyle swimmers emerging in Australia, now has the honour of being the world record holder for the 200 long course and the 400 and 1500 short course.

What makes the 18-year-old from Mermaid Waters, on the Gold Coast in Queensland, stand out from the rest? How about the fact that he sliced 4.8 seconds off the world record on his way to winning the 400 freestyle at the World Short Course Championships!

Grant Hackett celebrates 400 free world record at Short Course Worlds
Click image for larger photo. Photo © Patrick Kramer

What has driven him? The teenager cites his encounters with Ian Thorpe. "The competition in our country is so intense." He adds, "I had a 15-year-old (Thorpe) who came along at the World Championships and touched me out! I was overwhelmed by him and I took him a bit too seriously." It made him focus on himself and concentrate on executing the perfect swim. But as does any teenager, Hackett has other interests. His main one is his black Holden racing car. Relaxation to him is playing his guitar. In the water, Hackett, the younger son of Nev, a police inspector, and Margaret, sets the fashion and style, but out of the water, he likes the grunge look. He's also into electronic gizmos like mini video players. And he takes time out to watch his brother, Craig, compete-he's a professional ironman triathlete. Hackett credits his results to hard training and good coaching by Denis Cotterell. Cotterell has helped his star pupil conquer the fear of Thorpe's devastating kick finish, claiming "Thorpe is the best in the business, but Grant's gone back to his old tactics of fast starts because he knows he's stronger."

Hackett's 400 short-course world record came so close after his 200 long-course world record established at the Australian Nationals in Brisbane. But Hackett gave Cotterell a hint of what was to come when he admitted he felt better than he had at the Nationals. Cotterell admits, "It made me raise my eyebrows." Hackett's newfound turn of speed came, as Cotterell explains, because "We've worked in the 200 and 400 (m) zone primarily in his preparation to secure a relay spot," adding, "He would have necked (strangled) me had I not got him on the relay."

With Thorpe around, Hackett admits "We'll be pushing each other and it'll be interesting to see where we can go." He adds, "We are taking seconds off world records now and I think we're just going to keep on doing it." Cotterell has the final word. "I expect Thorpey to respond in the same way that Grant did. They respect each other, they're good friends, and they're taking this to a new level. Ian will be back. If any of them relent (there are others waiting in the wings), they'll lose. They're helping to keep the rest of the world at bay."