Grant Hackett went to the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games hoping to make history as the first male swimmer ever to win three consecutive Olympic gold medals in the same event. It wasn’t to be: Hackett was touched out in the final of the 1500 metres freestyle by the Tunisian Oussama Mellouli by 0.69 sec., in the closest Olympic finish over the distance in 32 years. The result gave Hackett - who, after the race, ruled out another tilt at the Olympics - a 1500m Olympic record equalling that of his former idol Kieren Perkins. While Hackett possesses an extra relay gold medal (from Sydney), each has won two golds and a silver over the longest, toughest event in the pool. Both rank in the pantheon of great Australian swimmers, alongside Dawn Fraser, Ian Thorpe, Murray Rose and Shane Gould.
Hackett, a keen surfer from Queensland’s Gold Coast, joined coach Denis Cotterell’s squad in 1992 at the age of 12. Between 1996 and 2000, when Perkins had some illness but largely took a holiday from swimming, the youthful Hackett ruled the distance - winning the world, Commonwealth, Pan Pacific and Australian championships. His showdown with Perkins, who had won gold at Barcelona (1992) and Atlanta (1996) took place in the final of Sydney’s 2000 Games. Attacking all the way, he beat Perkins into second place. Four years later, in Athens, he turned in the most heroic swim of the 2004 Games; dogged by respiratory problems, he overcame tough opposition to win his second 1500m gold medal. Hackett, coached since 2007 by Ian Pope, has won 10 world championships.
Harry Gordon, AOC historian