MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Australian swimming great Grant Hackett has confirmed his comeback to the pool after six years and has entered next April’s national trials, local media reported.
Hackett, who won 1,500 meters freestyle gold at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and defended the title four years later at Athens, had fueled speculation of a return months ago after being spotted training on the Gold Coast with his old coach Denis Cotterell.
Rated one of the greatest distance swimmers ever, 34-year-old Hackett has endured a torrid year, and flew to the United States in February to spend time in rehab to treat a dependency to Stilnox, a sleeping medication.
Hackett said his comeback was more about personal well-being and he had set himself modest goals, with fresh memories of compatriot Ian Thorpe’s failed bid to make Australia’s Olympic team for the London Games.
“(Ian) didn’t make comebacks look overly attractive, it was probably more of a deterrent,” Hackett said in comments published by News Ltd media on Sunday.
“That is probably why I’m more reserved and more humble because of watching that.
”At the age of 34, which is extremely old for swimming particularly after six years off, it becomes a challenge for me in my own mind of ‘how fast can you go at this age?’
“The most interesting thing is my body can still handle doing a fair bit of work which is great, that is why I think I’ve been able to get fit relatively quick.”
News Ltd websites showed pictures of the 6-ft-6in (1.98m) Australian looking lean and toned.
Hackett won 10 world titles and also a silver medal in the 1,500m at the 2008 Beijing Games, and held the world record in the distance until China’s reigning Olympic champion Sun Yang broke it at the 2011 world championships.
Sun was also coached by Cotterell, but is no longer trained by him after Australia’s swimming administration banned the Chinese from local pools this week.
Sun tested positive to a banned stimulant at national trials in May and was suspended for three months but Chinese authorities kept the case under wraps until November.
Writing by Ian Ransom; Editing by Gene Cherry