Kieren Perkins reveals panic attack that almost cost him Olympic swimming glory at Atlanta 1996

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Swimming great Kieren Perkins has revealed a panic attack nearly led him to abandon an Olympic gold-medal-winning race that became one of the most enduring moments in Australian sporting history.


On tonight’s Australian Story_, _Perkins explains that, after a poor showing in the 1,500-metre heats at the 1996 Atlanta games, he considered ditching the final and “disappearing into obscurity”.

His subsequent eleventh-hour comeback to clinch first place earned him his second Olympic gold medal and became a cherished moment in Australian sport.

Eighteen years later, Perkins says it is only now that he can finally understand and articulate what went wrong.

“This whole reality of the pressure of what it was you were going through just collapsed on me,” he said.

“And if I’m honest, I just panicked. The reality was in the middle of the heat, at that heat, I panicked in Atlanta.

“I got to this point where I just realised that the least painful thing to do for me would probably be just to miss the final and disappear into obscurity and tell stories of the good old times about the races I’d won before.

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Production engineer and certified swim coach. Full-time IT consultant, spare-time swimming aficionado. 2 sons, 2 daughters and a wife. President of the Faroe Islands Swimming Association. Likes to run :-)

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