Superfish splashes around Bundaberg
By Lee Gaskin
DESPITE the constant speculation around Ian Thorpe, fellow Olympic gold medallist Kieren Perkins believes the Thorpedo is still a force to be reckoned with.
Perkins made the comment during a flying promotional visit for Pura Milk and Woolworths in Bundaberg yesterday.
Thorpe has been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons, with many casting doubt on whether he will return to his blistering best following his trip to the United States.
But Perkins said there is still plenty of time for the 23-year-old to turn it all around.
"If he wants to, he can get back to his best," Perkins said.
"He would need to compete at the national trials in December and then the world championships after that.
"Even if he's not in great shape, he still has to be given the opportunity to race.
"To be fit for training is one thing, but to be in peak shape for competition is another.
"There's enough time for him to be ready for Beijing (in 2008), but he needs to race to make sure he's sharp."
Without Thorpe and Australian team captain Grant Hackett taking to the water, the national men's team have struggled to keep up with the exploits of not only their competitors, but also the Australian women.
With the likes of Libby Lenton, Jessica Schipper and Leisel Jones setting world records and taking gold left and right, the men have been relegated into their shadow.
However, Perkins is not overly concerned.
"It's the natural cycle of life," he said.
"When Ian and Grant are there, we're very strong, but when they're not, our lack of depth is exposed.
"In the time I was there, the men dominated the women and nobody said anything, but now it's turned around, it's a big problem.
"It's not like we have to panic."
Staying busy with a host of corporate speaking gigs and promotions work, Perkins keeps involved in the sport that made him a star with commentary assignments at major meets, something he described as "just a bit of fun".
With Bundaberg home to several state and national champions, Perkins believed children from regional areas had an advantage over their city cousins.
"Kids in the city have more distractions, while if you live out here there's the opportunity for kids to focus on their swimming," he said.
"But, there still needs to be strong community support, and a lot of involvement from parents."
When it comes to making the top, Perkins had just one piece of advice.
"All it takes is hard work," the Superfish said.
"The image is that people need to be special or extraordinary to succeed, but in reality that's not the case."