July 16, 2015 / 4:53 AM / 4 years ago

Australian distance great Hackett targets Rio Olympics

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Distance swimming great Grant Hackett confirmed on Thursday that he would be bidding for a place on the Australian team for next year’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

The 35-year-old retired in 2008 after coming up just short of winning the 1,500 meters at three successive Olympics to crown a career in which he all but dominated the event.

Hackett returned to training after struggling to deal with personal issues and has qualified for Australia’s 4x200m relay team for next month’s world championships.

Having got himself into the sort of shape required to compete at the championships in Kazan, Russia, however, he has decided to ride his comeback for as long as he can.

“For me it goes beyond the world championships now, I will certainly be looking forward to the Olympic trials next year,” he told reporters on the Gold Coast on Thursday.

“It is something that I’ve been hesitating committing to because I really wasn’t sure how my body was going to hold up all through this.

“Whether I could do the work. Or whether I could actually get the times or even had a realistic time frame to be competitive.

“I’ve been able to tick a lot of boxes there and I just want to continue to see where I take it.”

Hackett won gold in the 1,500 meters on home soil at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and at the Athens Games four years later. He also won a 4x200m gold in Sydney and silvers in the 400m freestyle in Greece and 1,500m in Beijing in 2008.

He won 10 titles in individual and relay events over four world championships from 1998 to 2005 and at stages during his career, owned the long course world records for the 200, 800 and 1,500 meter freestyle events.

Last year, Hackett checked into an Arizona clinic to undergo treatment for his addiction to the insomnia medication Zolpidem, which was introduced to him by support staff during his swimming career.

Reporting by Nick Mulvenney; Editing by John O'Brien

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