PAUL LOCKYER, REPORTER: These days Grant Hackett, captain of the swimming team, handles the fans and the media with great aplomb.

GRANT HACKETT, OLYMPIAN: There's always going to be a lot of attention, this is the biggest sporting event in the world. And certainly for me going three in
a row I certainly realise the attention and expectation that comes with that.

PAUL LOCKYER: His date with the record books will not take place until the very last day of the swimming competition, an agonising wait for his closest

MARGARET HACKETT, GRANT HACKETT'S MOTHER: Very tense, yes. He's actually trying to do something that no one else has done before, so he's trying to make
history here as well. So it's all very tense.

NEVILLE HACKETT, GRANT HACKETT'S FATHER: I'd never write him off, ever. He'll be there when the whips are cracking.

PAUL LOCKYER: Neville and Margaret Hackett marvel at his son's development; from the nonchalant teenager who emerged from the Queensland surf scene to become
a world champion.

MARGARET HACKETT: He was just such a laid back sort of a kid. I mean he fooled me for a long time; I didn't know he had an inner strength, which he has got.

NEVILLE HACKETT: He even surprises us to this day. He's got so much drive. Anything he does he does 110 per cent.

SUSIE O'NEILL, OLYMPIAN: He's a lot more sophisticated now. You know, when he first made the team and I used to see him in his pants, they used to be too
short for him. And he used to eat terribly, like shovel that food in there.

PAUL LOCKYER: Susie O'Neill was the queen of the pool when Grant Hackett competed at his first Olympics in Sydney. The king of the pool was Kieren Perkins,
trying to achieve the same feat that Grant Hackett is attempting in these Olympics.

SUSIE O'NEIL: You know probably most of the crowd wanted Kieren to win; to get his third gold medal, and really didn't want Grant to beat him.

PAUL LOCKYER: To make matters worse Hackett was dogged by illness, and was battling to recover from a debilitating bout of glandular fever.

SUSIE O'NEILL: I know he didn't start the meet so well, and there were a lot of reporters saying 'what's wrong with you, why aren't you going so well?'

PAUL LOCKYER: Grant Hackett was anxious and distressed, and turned to his parents for help.

MARGARET HACKETT: I had a child at the time crying on the phone, and it was really traumatic.

PAUL LOCKYER: In response to the crisis facing one of its stars Australian swimming took the extraordinary step of organising a meeting between Grant Hackett 
and his parents in the middle of the Olympics. 

In that meeting his parents were able to offer him the reassurance he needed to refocus on the 1,500.

MARGARET HACKETT: We were lucky the officials let us see him at the pool. And that was wonderful; we all needed it. And we just joked and carried on.

NEVILLE HACKETT: When we had the meeting with him, we thought well 'this meeting's not going to be any good at all', and he said to us, ['I can't wait for
the 1,500m, I'll goal alright in the 1500m' he said, 'I can just go to the front and I can hear that water swishing by my ears', and I thought 'hello, this isn't a bloke that's down and out, you know, he's a bit of a chance'. Turned out he was.

PAUL LOCKYER: It was to get no easier when Grant Hackett lined up to defend his Olympic title in Athens four years later. He suffered from respiratory
problems leading up to the event, which developed into pneumonia at one stage.

MARGARET HACKETT: He'd been going to the doctors for 12 months trying to clear the chest up. But he couldn't stop training, because it was the Olympics.

PAUL LOCKYER: His victory in Athens left him near collapse, it was later that it was revealed he had been competing with a partially collapsed lung.

NEVILLE HACKETT: I think that's the toughest swim I have ever seen, and it's a gutsiest swim I have ever seen too.

ALAN THOMPSON, HEAD COACH: Showed the true character of the man. And hopefully this time, with a much better preparation, we can do even a much better job.

PAUL LOCKYER: But Hackett is trying to recover from the worst form slump of his career. He struggled to win a place in the final of the 1,500m at last year's
World Championships; and was well beaten in an event he had dominated for so long.

GRANT HACKETT: This is extremely inspiring to make me want to get back to my best.

SUSIE O'NEILL: Not doing well last year at the World Championships has taken away some of the aura around him; and probably some of his competitors are
thinking he's not unbeatable. So that's probably a bad thing for him.

PAUL LOCKYER: Hackett explained away the form reversal to big changes in his life; including marriage, a new coach, and a move to Melbourne.

GRANT HACKETT: I've you know got out of the stale rut I felt like I was in back in the Gold Coast, and training in the same place for 21 years. I've been
able to improve and steadily step up in my performance over the time.

PAUL LOCKYER: Hackett's performances in Beijing have been mixed. Fifth in the 400m behind four of his rivals for the 1,500. But a slicker swim in the 4x200m
relay, to help win a bronze medal for Australia. His performances have been mixed.And for the first time at an Olympics, there are no health problems for Hackett. He has enough to worry about from the most talented 1,500 field in history.

GRANT HACKETT: The toughest challenge I've been saying about this Olympic Games is the fact there's so much depth that to qualify through the heats you have
to go so fast; and that perhaps could take the edge off the final.

SUSIE O'NEILL: But if he actually won it he'd be a superstar, you know. I mean the people who tried to get it before, and haven't succeeded. Perkins and Alex
Popov the two that come to mind. If he gets actually gets there then that would be amazing.

MARGARET HACKETT: I'd love him to win. You want them to be happy. He's worked very hard obvious the years, really hard. And you just want things to work out
for your children, that's quite normal.

KERRY O'BRIEN: And what a climax it would be for Australian swimming at these Games if he can pull it off.

Paul Lockyer in Beijing.

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