Kieren Perkins after winning the 1500m freestyle at the 1994 Commonwealth Games
Kieren Perkins after winning the 1500m freestyle at the 1994 Commonwealth Games

Why Kieren Perkins got in trouble for breaking world record

IT'S not often the thrill of breaking a world record is quickly followed by the sensation "Oh man, I'm in trouble" but that was exactly my reaction after the 1500m freestyle final in 1994 when the Commonwealth Games were last held in Canada.

That meet in Victoria remains one of my favourites because it all came together in my pet event with my fastest ever time (14 min 41.66 sec).

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Now this was the problem. My coach Mr (John) Carew and I had mapped out a plan to take into account the heavy program of four events I had in Victoria and the racing I would do just a few weeks later at the World Championships in Rome.

Perkins with swimming coach John Carew back in 1994.
Perkins with swimming coach John Carew back in 1994.

We had a strong recognition it was going to be rough and I had my heart set on winning a world title which was missing at that point of my career.

We knew I was feeling good in the water at the Comm Games and Mr Carew said he just wanted me to go hard for the first 800m, with the strong chance of picking up the world record, and then "easing off to win."

OK, got it Kieren. It'd be better not to push the rest of the race to conserve some energy for "the plan."

When it came to the race everything felt in tune. I was just rolling through lap after lap and the excitement with a big crowd was all around me.

I really had planned to ease back after the 800m mark (after setting a new world record of 7:46.00) and not break the 1500m record at all but everything felt so good I just kept holding my pace as I liked to swim..

I didn't even bring in my six-beat kick for the final lap, as I normally would.

The final wall. World record. Two in one race. So excited.

Not bad right? That's when I thought "Oh man I'm in trouble" and it didn't take long to spy Mr Carew in the walkway of the temporary grandstand coming towards me with steam coming out his ears.

I'm lucky (head coach) Don Talbot appeared to run some interference with "congratulations, great swim" while Mr Carew had his turn.

"What the bloody hell...I told you to ease down," he said.

I paid for it in Rome.

In terms of all-out performance, my 400m (for a world record and first world title) in Rome was my best race, one where everything fell into place.

Kieren Perkins won four gold medals in Victoria, Canada, 1994.
Kieren Perkins won four gold medals in Victoria, Canada, 1994.

Mr Carew was right. By the 1500m at the end of the program I was struggling and it was the hardest winning race of my life.

I competed at three Commonwealth Games. I loved the environment and it was a real thrill to be invited to participate in the Queen's Baton Relay in Brisbane last week (***pics taken***).

When you actually get back into that environment with crowds on the side of the road and little kids reacting with "oohs and aarhs" at the sight of the baton, it reminds you of the positive energy and the way the Commonwealth Games has an impact on the community at large.

Well, I had a baton leg up a steep stretch of road beside Government House and the first thing the police escort asked was "walking or running?"

I'm a swimmer or was. Walking. A better way to take it all in is my story and I'm sticking to it.

FACT: Perkins' 1500m freestyle mark from 1994 still stands as the longest surviving Commonwealth Games record in the pool.

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