By Paul Higham. Last Updated: 07/08/08 9:50am
Grant Hackett: Distance king
Gran Hackett will look for, despite all the histrionics surrounding Michael Phelps, his own piece of Olympic history in pool in Beijing.
The tough Australia is the master of the gruelling and truly lung-busting event of the 1500m freestyle and in Beijing he can become the first man ever to win three consecutive golds in the discipline.
Hackett has claimed the last two Olympic golds with ease and has held the world record for the event since 2001.
28-year-old Hackett is the most decorated Australian swimmer in World Championship history and went a decade unbeaten in his favoured 1500m race, but his build-up to Beijing has been anything but smooth sailing.
A change in training regime was cited for a disastrous World Championship campaign in 2007, while he also tried, and failed, to qualify for the Olympic 10km Open Water race where he came in form some heavy treatment by the more hardened triathlon swimmers.
Hackett is nothing if not tough though, and has been training ridiculously hard ahead of Beijing as he knows that now his reputation as the world's greatest long-distance pool swimmer and not only his chance of history is at stake.
Obviously toughness runs in the Hackett family from Queensland, as Grant's brother was an ironman champion.
Hackett recorded his one and only victory over Ian Thorpe on his debut on his debut in the 400m freestyle, but it is the longer swims that have made his name.
Never one to sit around waiting for his event though, Hackett will compete in the 200m, 400m, and 4x200m relay as well as the 1500m in Beijing.
Hackett has pocketed 18 medals at the World Championships over the years, including a superb haul in Montreal in 2005 when he won 400m, 800m, and 1500m freestyle events - the first swimmer ever to achieve such a feat.
The Australian captain also broke Thorpe's 800m world record in a performance that led to him becoming Swimmer of the Year.
Also with five Commonwealth golds under his belt, Hackett missed the 2006 event due to having minor shoulder surgery, while he also moved to Melbourne.
The following year brought an end to Hackett's 1500m domination as he was beaten for the first time in a decade when only finishing seventh at the World Championships, a result put down to his new training regime.
Hackett did bounce back to claim an 11th consecutive national 1500m title in March and also improved his own 880m short course world record to prove he is still in great shape.
Heading to the Olympics perhaps without the unbeaten aura he used to possess, Hackett still should be the man to beat at 1500m in Beijing.
Any man with three Olympic, 10 World Championship and five Commonwealth Games gold medal must demand the utmost respect, while a fierce competitor such as Hackett may just feel he has a point to prove after the last year - which would make him a very dangerous animal indeed.
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