Interesting details in this Brisbane Times article titled “Are elite athletes born or made?“, on how coach Denis Cotterell thinks as others that champion athletes like Hackett have benefited from a series of unusual circumstances – including themselves.
Hackett had already clocked 10,000 hours in the pool when he was 16 or 17, Cotterell says. The swimmer claimed the first of his 13 Olympic or world titles soon after, in Perth in 1998.
“He’d been swimming since he was six,” Cotterell says. “It’s [the 10,000-hour rule] a fair reference, you really do have to put that in.”
Hackett had a “natural affinity” with the water but Cotterell says he’s never had a pupil as dedicated.
“He could take the hard work, he wanted to do the hard work, he thrived on it,” Cotterell says.
“He embraced what I gave him but he was demonic about his application to work. He wanted to succeed.”
Hackett’s story also bears some similarity to Syed’s. Like many Queenslanders, Hackett loved the water – a hobby suited by the state’s climate. He had a brother, Craig, who became a champion ironman, whom he could aspire to. He was also part of a strong swimming club where Olympians Daniel Kowalski and Andrew Baildon underlined the value of hard work.
And there was also the Sliding Doors moment – an ironman race where Hackett had gapped the field only to be overhauled by a competitor carried by a well-timed wave.
“He got beaten one year after leading by about 100 metres and someone got a wave and [he] thought that’s a stupid sport,” Cotterell says.
“He’s done the work and he wanted to be rewarded for it.
“Swimming’s a lonely sport, it’s not a team sport, you can’t escape. You’re standing on the block and you’ve brought yourself to a level through hard work. There’s no lucky days, no lucky breaks.”