Legendary Australian distance swimmer Grant Hackett turns 40 on Saturday, a marked milestone almost 20 years after Hackett won his first Olympic gold medal at the 2000 Games in the 1500 free.
Half-a-lifetime ago, Hackett battled his countrymate Kieren Perkins, the two-time defending champion in the event, at the 2000 Olympic Games. While Perkins already had plenty of hardware on his shelf to cement his legacy, this race, in front of a home crowd in Sydney between up-and-comer Hackett, was a battle for the throne between the aging but still capable Perkins and the young upstart Hackett who wished to ascend the tower. Perkins was the outright favorite among the home crowd, but Hackett, in spite of a virus that plagued his swims earlier in the week, was determined to top the tower.
In the race, Hackett set the pace early, an unusual tactic for him, and grew his lead to eventually win by more than 5 seconds. His 14:48.33 didn’t seriously challenge Perkins’ World Record, though a year later at the 2001 World Championships he would obliterate that mark, by 7 seconds, in 14:34.56.
From 1997 through 2004, Hackett dominated the event globally. In spite of a 1998 World Championship preceding this win, though, the 2000 swim was the one that made him the new distance king.
Watch that race below:
Hackett’s World Record in Fukuoka: