Hackett back on the high road
Jun 1, 2015 - Amy Levings
He has achieved everything, more than any athlete could ever dream. Ask him anything about the sport and he can comment accurately while also teaching you a valuable lesson. Intelligent, quick witted and hailed as the greatest distance swimmer of all time, Grant Hackett is not only a household name in Australia, but is engraved in sporting history.
There were multiple Olympic gold medals and world records, and then a successful life after sport. He made it in the business world, had a media career, a glamorous wife and perfect boy-girl twins, Hackett looked to have it all.
But then the veneer cracked. There was the public drunkenness, allegations of domestic violence, a nasty marriage breakdown, revelations of drug use and that incident caught on camera, of Hackett wandering almost naked and incoherent through a casino searching for his toddler son.
With such legendary sporting status comes a big responsibility. Living life in the spotlight isn't a choice; it comes with the territory for Grant and having to cope with the media when his personal life started to fall apart, was a big life lesson for the 35-year-old.
It triggered a stint in rehab, a public confession; a hard road for anyone let alone the prototype tall poppy. But astonishingly only 12 months on and a mere 6 months of training under his belt, Hackett has come out of the dark alley feeling liberated and even more determined, making one of the few successful comebacks in Australian swimming.
If Grant is trying to prove a point he’s clearly got our attention. Ripped, bronzed and fitter looking than we’ve ever seen him, he was definitely an eye-catching appearance at the 2015 Australian Swimming Championships.
With an ear-to-ear smile on his face and his life clearly back on track, Hackett is once again the talk of the swimming world and the question we’d like to know is - what exactly is he capable of?
His expectation-less approach led to his jaw dropping performances in the Men’s 200m, (1.46.84 in 4th) and 400m (3.46.53 in 3rd) freestyle, subsequently securing his spot on the Australian 4x200m relay. He went above and beyond what was expected after such a short time back in the pool, surprising everyone including himself.
“I didn't limit what I could achieve, but there’s no way I thought in real perspective I could do those times especially in the 400m….I just started training to get fit, I decided to do a club relay then all of a sudden I’m back on the team,” said Hackett.
Gaining another 3 months of solid training before Worlds, Hackett isn't holding back with preparations for Russia. His motivation hasn't changed and he aims to keep it simple while enjoying the sport he’s always been passionate about.
“I don’t like to have real specific goals now because I feel like it can be limiting in some senses. I really think I did that for the trials, I didn’t limit what I could achieve.”
After having recently returned from the first Grand Prix in Canberra, Hackett was please with his performances while racing during hard work. Though the element he was most excited about was being part of the Australian Dolphins Swim Team once again.
“It’s great; I’m sort of getting back into an old mode. It’s fun being back on the team, there’s a lot of new faces and getting to know people is exciting.”
Distance guru Denis Cotterell and long time coach who has mentored Grant for over 20 years believes Hackett’s return will bring many positive things to the current crop of Swimming Australia as the veteran of the team.
“He’s had more experience than almost anyone, he can assist on any level, and can comment accurately,” said Cotterell.
Denis describes Hackett’s personality as intelligent and committed, while he regularly expresses how he has never seen an athlete train as relentlessly and as tough as Grant.
“Many years ago he told me he wanted to be the best in the world, so he figured he’d have to be the best trainer in the world. He’s never content in training and always wants to push harder, faster, longer and more consistently.”
Hackett admits his outlook on swimming is quite different these days. Saying he takes a much calmer approach with less pressure and expectation, and is purely motivated by the enjoyment of the sport.
“For me it’s all about focusing on the process, improving my technique in training, my recovery, sleep and all those important attributes is what I’m focusing on leading into Worlds… I’m just excited to be back in the sport and to have another opportunity.”
The way Grant speaks about his swimming, it’s obvious to see how deeply committed he is to getting the best out of himself. He acknowledges he’s in really good place at the moment, but his goal isn’t necessarily Rio, because if in 6months time he doesn't enjoy it anymore, he’ll hang up the swimmers for good.
“I feel like if I stay in this happy place I’ll keep improving and I’ll keep doing it for the right reasons. Not because of those five Olympic rings, because I’ve kind of been there and done that, but in saying that you know it’s most likely something that’s going to happen and you’re going to see me rock up to Olympic trials next year.”
Denis and the Miami Swimming Club have always supported Grant one hundred percent of the way. Although the pair are keeping secret what they’ve got planned for after Worlds, I think it’s safe to say and especially judging from the performances so far, Hackett will be aiming for Rio and Cotterell will be taking him there.
1980 - Born in Southport, QLD
1986 - Joined Miami Swim Club, Gold Coast
1997- Won 1500m & 400m freestyle at Pan Pacific Championships
1998- Won 1500m & 4x200 freestyle (starting a six year winning streak over team USA in relay event) Silver 400m at World Championships
1999- Broke his first World Record in 200m freestyle leading off the Miami clubs 4x200 relay at the Australian Swimming Championships
2000- Won his first Olympic gold medal in the 1500m freestyle at his first Olympics in Sydney
2001- Broke Keiren Perkin’s 1500m World Record claiming gold at World Championships
2004- Became dual Olympic Gold medalist in 1500m retaining his title. Silver 400m & 4x200m relay
2005- Became Australian Swim team captain. Won 400, 800 (in World Record) ,&1500 at World Championships
2006 - Due to shoulder surgery in Nov 2005, Hackett acted as a non-competing mentor on the Australian Swim Team.
2007 - 7th at World Championships in 1500, ending a decade long winning streak in the grueling distance event
2008 - Became a 3x Olympian, Sliver in 1500m, Bronze in 4x200 relay. Officially retired in October
2014 -Back in the pool
2015- Competing in Australian 4x200 relay at World Championships