“Being your best is not so much about overcoming the barriers other people place in front of you as it is about overcoming the barriers we place in front of ourselves. It has nothing to do with how many times you win or lose. It has no relation to where you finish in a race or whether you break world records. But it does have everything to do with having the vision to dream, the courage to recover from adversity and the determination never to be shifted from your goals.”
Perkins (born August 14, 1973, in Brisbane) is a former Australian professional swimmer. One of the world’s best-ever long-distance swimmers, he won two Olympic gold medals in 1992 and 1996 in the 1500-metre freestyle, and a silver medal in 2000. He was inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 2002. He began swimming regularly at age eight as part of his rehabilitation from a serious leg injury (after running through a plate glass window). At age 13 his potential became obvious, and with coach John Carew guiding him he won his first national medal in 1989 and a Commonwealth medal by 1990. By 1992 he dominated the 1500 m event, demolishing a long-standing world record. He dominated the event at the Barcelona Olympic games, lowering the record to 14 minutes, 43 seconds – a massive improvement. He was also the world record holder in the 400 m freestyle, but this was broken by the Russian Yevgeny Sadovyi in Barcelona, relegating Perkins to silver. At the 1994 Commonwealth Games Perkins broke the 400 m, 800 m, and 1500 m freestyle world records. The 800 m record was broken while swimming the 1500 m event. The 400 m record stood until it was broken by fellow Australian Ian Thorpe in 1999, and the 800 m and 1500 m records until 2001 when broken by Thorpe and Grant Hackett respectively. His performances in that year earned him the Male World Swimmer of the Year award from the Swimming World magazine.
At the time of the 1996 Olympics, Perkins was out of form and long-time Australian rival Daniel Kowalski was regarded as the favourite. He qualified for the final by a mere 0.24 seconds and it was later revealed that Perkins felt unwell and considered not swimming. From lane eight, Perkins dominated the race, again relegating Kowalski to his perennial bridesmaid position. Despite being world record holder, he failed to qualify for the 400m freestyle in April, finishing third at the Australian Championships. After his Atlanta triumph, some commentators were surprised when Perkins decided to continue competing, particularly as the rise of Grant Hackett, another Australian distance swimmer, made it seem unlikely that Perkins could win again. However, the lure of a home Olympics was too much for Perkins. Hackett completed his rise to the top by beating Perkins, who took the silver medal in a respectable time of under 15 minutes.