Kieren Perkins

Kieren John Perkins, OAM (born 14 August 1973) is a former Australian freestyle swimmer. He specialised in the 1500-metre freestyle and won successive Olympic gold medals in this event in the 1990s. He won his first at the 1992 Olympics which he won in world record time and then at the 1996 Olympics when he defended his title. In total he won four Olympic medals.[1][2]

Kieren Perkins
Personal information
Full nameKieren John Perkins
National team Australia
Born (1973-08-14) 14 August 1973 (age 49)
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
Height194 cm (6 ft 4 in)
Weight90 kg (198 lb)
ClubCommercial Swimming Club
Medal record
Men's swimming
Representing Australia
Olympic Games
Gold medal – first place 1992 Barcelona 1500 m freestyle
Gold medal – first place 1996 Atlanta 1500 m freestyle
Silver medal – second place 1992 Barcelona 400 m freestyle
Silver medal – second place 2000 Sydney 1500 m freestyle
World Championships (LC)
Gold medal – first place 1994 Rome 400 m freestyle
Gold medal – first place 1994 Rome 1500 m freestyle
Silver medal – second place 1991 Perth 1500 m freestyle
Pan Pacific Championships
Gold medal – first place 1991 Edmonton 400 m freestyle
Gold medal – first place 1991 Edmonton 800 m freestyle
Gold medal – first place 1991 Edmonton 1500 m freestyle
Gold medal – first place 1993 Kobe 400 m freestyle
Gold medal – first place 1993 Kobe 800 m freestyle
Gold medal – first place 1993 Kobe 1500 m freestyle
Gold medal – first place 1995 Atlanta 1500 m freestyle
Silver medal – second place 1995 Atlanta 800 m freestyle
Silver medal – second place 1991 Edmonton 4×200 m freestyle
Silver medal – second place 1993 Kobe 4×200 m freestyle
Commonwealth Games
Gold medal – first place 1994 Victoria 200 m freestyle
Gold medal – first place 1994 Victoria 400 m freestyle
Gold medal – first place 1994 Victoria 1500 m freestyle
Gold medal – first place 1994 Victoria 4×200 m freestyle
Silver medal – second place 1990 Auckland 1500 m freestyle
Bronze medal – third place 1998 Kuala Lumpur 1500 m freestyle

Early lifeEdit

Perkins was born in Brisbane, Queensland. He attended Indooroopilly State Primary School and graduated from Brisbane Boys' College in the inner city suburb of Toowong. He began swimming regularly at age eight as part of his rehabilitation from a serious leg injury incurred after running through a plate glass window.[3] At age 13 his potential became obvious, and with coach John Carew guiding him he won his first medal at the Australian Championships in Melbourne in 1989.[3]

Early international career (1990–1992)Edit

1990 Commonwealth GamesEdit

Perkins's first major international meet was the 1990 Commonwealth Games in Auckland, New Zealand. Perkins won the silver medal in the 1500 metre freestyle behind fellow Queenslander Glen Housman.[3] Both Housman (14:55.25) and Perkins (14:58.08) broke 15 minutes which was the first time Perkins had recorded a sub-fifteen-minute 1500 metres.

1991 World ChampionshipsEdit

There was much expectation around Perkins at the 1991 World Aquatics Championships in Perth in the 1500 m freestyle, but he was beaten in the final by just 0.22 seconds by German Jörg Hoffmann who set a new world-record time. Perkins swam 14:50.58 which was also far under the previous world record.[3]

1992 Olympic GamesEdit

Perkins was favorite for the men's 1500-metre freestyle at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain. The fastest qualifier for the final, Perkins broke his own world record by 5 seconds to 14:43.48. This was the only gold medal won by an Australian swimmer at these Games.[3]

Earlier in the meet, Perkins finished second in the 400 m final. Russian Yevgeny Sadovyi representing the Unified Team won the race in a world record time. Perkins also broke the world record as he finished 0.16 behind.[3]

Perkins was the Australian flag bearer at the closing ceremony.[3]

Peak international career (1993–1996)Edit

1994 Commonwealth GamesEdit

At the 1994 Commonwealth Games in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, Perkins won four gold medals in the 200 m, 400 m, 1500 m and 4 x 200 m freestyle relay all in world record time.[3]

1994 World ChampionshipsEdit

Two weeks after the Commonwealth Games, Perkins competed in the 1994 World Aquatics Championships in Rome. He won two gold medals in the 400 m and 1500 m, the 400 m in World Record time.[3] His 400 m and 1500 m world records made that year stood until 1999 and 2001 respectively, broken by fellow Australians Ian Thorpe and Grant Hackett. His performances in that year earned him the Male World Swimmer of the Year award from Swimming World magazine. He later described the Olympic Pool in Rome as his favourite pool.[4]

1996 Olympic GamesEdit

At the time of the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Perkins was out of form and long-time Australian rival Daniel Kowalski was regarded as the favourite. In fact his form was so poor that he almost failed to make the Australian team. Perkins qualified for the 1500-metre freestyle final by a mere 0.24 seconds to be the slowest of the top 8 qualifiers, and it was later revealed that before the race he felt unwell and considered not swimming.[5] From lane eight, Perkins dominated the race being the only swimmer to go under 15 minutes (14:56.40), again relegating Kowalski, who had to fight all the way and just held off Graeme Smith. Perkins became just the third swimmer to win consecutive gold medals in this event. He became the only Australian since Dawn Fraser to defend an individual Olympic championship successfully in Olympics held outside Australia.[1]

Era of Dominance Over (1998–2000)Edit

1998 Commonwealth GamesEdit

Perkins carried the flag at the opening ceremony for the 1998 Commonwealth Games held in Kuala Lumpur. In the 1500 m freestyle, he won bronze behind 18 year old heir apparent Grant Hackett and Ryk Neethling.[6]

2000 Olympic GamesEdit

Perkins was in Monte Carlo in 1993 the night Sydney won the right to host the games[3] and managed to qualify for his 3rd Olympic Games. Despite being just 27, he was now the elder statesman of the team. It was a reverse of four years earlier where Perkins was the fastest qualifier heading into the final, but Grant Hackett won gold with Perkins winning silver.[1] Perkins joined Frank Beaurepaire as one of two swimmers to win three medals in this event.


With the nickname of Super Fish, Perkins retired from swimming in 2000 having amassed 23 medals at international competitions. He set 11 world records, holding the 1500 m freestyle record for nine years, the 800 m for ten years and the 400 m freestyle for five years.[7]

He is the first person in history to hold the Olympic, World, Commonwealth and Pan Pacific titles simultaneously.[8]

He broke over 40 Australian records during a career spanning from 1989 to 2000.[3]

Perkins won two of the 16 gold medals Australia won at the 1992 and 1996 Olympic Games. He was one of 6 Australians to win gold medals at both of these Games. Perkins won 2 of the 3 swimming gold Australia won during this time. There was a mythology in Australia with the 1500 m freestyle that Perkins revived and brought into modern times. Australian swimmers won Olympic gold in the 1500 m from 1956 to 1964 but nothing for 28 years until Perkins broke the drought. Australia has won the event more times than any other nation.


In the Australia Day Honours of 1992, Perkins was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM).[3]


Perkins was named 1992 Young Australian of the Year.[9] Also named an Australian Living Treasure, he was inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 2002.[3] In 2009 Perkins was inducted into the Queensland Sport Hall of Fame.[10] Also in 2009 as part of the Q150 celebrations, Kieren Perkins was announced as one of the Q150 Icons of Queensland for his role as a "sports legend".[11] Perkins was awarded an honorary degree by the University of Queensland.[7]

Post swimming careerEdit

Since his retirement, he has occasionally worked in the broadcast media. He joined National Australia Bank in 2009.[12] Perkins was part of the team that conducted a review of the Australian swimming team at the 2012 Olympics.[13] In November 2020, Perkins was appointed as President of Swimming Australia.[14] He was a director of the Starlight Foundation.[12]

On 17 December 2021, Perkins was named the new CEO of the Australian Sports Commission, overseeing Sport Australia and the Australian Institute of Sport.[15]

Personal lifeEdit

Perkins married in 1997 and has three children, Harry, Georgia and Charlie, with ex-wife Symantha. In June 2012 Perkins announced he and Symantha had separated.[16] In October 2014, Perkins married Karen Davis in Positano, Italy.[17]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c "Kieren Perkins". Australian Olympic Committee. Retrieved 23 September 2020.
  2. ^ "Kieren Perkins". International Olympic Committee. Retrieved 23 September 2020.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "Kieran Perkins". Sport Australia Hall of Fame. Retrieved 24 September 2020.
  4. ^ "Kieren Perkins". Talking with TK. Retrieved 23 September 2020.
  5. ^ Murray, Kirstin (26 May 2014). "Coming up for air". ABC News. Retrieved 24 September 2020.
  6. ^ "Kieren Perkins". Australian Commonwealth Games Federation. Retrieved 23 September 2020.
  7. ^ a b "Kieren Perkins Appointed to Swimming Australia Board". Swimming Australia. Retrieved 23 September 2020.
  8. ^ "Kieren Perkins". International Swimming Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on 14 August 2020. Retrieved 23 September 2020.
  9. ^ "Kieren Perkins". Australian of the Year. Retrieved 23 September 2020.
  10. ^ "Mr Kieren Perkins OAM". Queensland Sport Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on 26 January 2014. Retrieved 20 January 2014.
  11. ^ Bligh, Anna (10 June 2009). "PREMIER UNVEILS QUEENSLAND'S 150 ICONS". Queensland Government. Archived from the original on 24 May 2017. Retrieved 24 May 2017.
  12. ^ a b "Kieren Perksin". Starlight Foundation. Retrieved 23 September 2020.
  13. ^ "Kieren Perkins Harvard MBA Tim Ford Join Australian Swim Review". Bloomberg. Retrieved 23 September 2020.
  14. ^ "Perkins appointed Swimming Australia President". Swimming Australia. 7 November 2020. Retrieved 7 November 2020.
  15. ^ Mark, David. "Kieren Perkins named new Australian Sports Commission CEO". ABC. Retrieved 17 December 2021.
  16. ^ Sharp, Annette (2 June 2012). "How the Perkins' marriage hit troubled waters". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 16 February 2017.
  17. ^ "Kieren Perkins marries in Italy". Easy Weddings. Easy Weddings. Retrieved 16 February 2017.

Further readingEdit

  • Carew, J., et al. (1997) "Kieren Perkins". Sydney, Pan Macmillan, ISBN 0-330-35866-9.

External linksEdit

Preceded by Men's 800 metres freestyle
world record holder (long course)

5 August 1991 – 26 March 2001
Succeeded by
Preceded by Men's 400 metres freestyle
world record holder (long course)

3 April 1992 – 29 July 1992
Succeeded by
Preceded by Men's 1500 metres freestyle
world record holder (long course)

5 April 1992 – 29 July 2001
Succeeded by
Preceded by Men's 400 metres freestyle
world record holder (long course)

11 September 1994 – 22 August 1999
Succeeded by
Awards and achievements
Preceded by World Swimmer of the Year
Succeeded by