Grant Hackett’s mid-flight brain explosion was as unexpected as it was sad.
In the lead up to the Australian swimming team selection trials Grant spoke to 1029 Hot Tomato’s Flan and Emily Jade’s breakfast show and he couldn’t have sounded more together.
I was utterly inspired by him.
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Grant was funny, focussed and bloody interesting.
To put his comeback into some kind of perspective, he was attempting to become a member of one of this countries toughest nuts to crack: the Australian swimming team.
I hear a lot of discussion about the Australian cricket team and its supposed significance in this country but my ultimate respect is reserved for our swimmers.
People like Grant Hackett, Libby Trickett, Cameron McEvoy and Melonie Wright nee Schlanger and a host of brilliant swimmers over the years. But I have a special place in my sporting heart for the people they beat into 4th, 5th and 6th place.
If I had the talent to make a race at the Australian swimming championships then came stone motherless last, I’d be crazy proud.
Over the years I’ve been told stories about awesome Aussie swimmers who have dedicated their everyday to training for years.
The selection trials come around and they finished 7th and missed out on swimming for Australia but their time would have been good enough to have represented most other countries in the world.
That has got to be tough. All that effort and no pay off. Just the satisfaction of knowing you’ve done your best. Well you can’t pay the mortgage with satisfaction.
Perhaps in Grant Hackett’s case it was just too much to hear that competitive swimming is a thing of the past for him. I don’t want to speculate about the reason for his melt-down but I do want to know eventually because I give a rats about him.
No more swimming for me!!! ? Behind the mic with @giaan.rooney @basil_zempilas & #mattcowdrey tonight for Day 5 of the 2016 Australian Swimming Championships @channel7hq #sevensport #swimming #roadtorio
A photo posted by Grant Hackett (@grant__hackett) on
The incident has cast a pall over whether or not he will become an Olympic mentor in Rio. His outstanding reputation as an Olympian saw current Olympic team member Kyle Chalmers throw his support behind Hackett for the mentoring role despite “Nipple-gate.”
Simply put, addiction must be a bastard.
I have nothing but sincere well wishes for Grant and if Swimming Australia deems him fit to take up his mentoring role then I will have only one axe to grind.
That is that the members of the Australian women’s swimming team have been stunningly successful both in and out of the pool for such a long time and I believe they’ve more than earned the right to mentor our team at the Rio Olympic games.
They are the role models I want for both my daughter and my son.
With respect to the mentoring role, the thing Grant Hackett has to consider if this; what if he has a meltdown at the Games and a young swimmer at their first Olympics who desperately needs his support and guidance misses out on it at one of the most special times of their career?
Melanie Wright has the most superb and pragmatic attitude to the injury that robbed her of yet another Olympic experience in the shadow of the selection trials.
I asked her how she felt about it and I’ll never forget the simplicity of her response; “Injuries are just a part of sport and I have to cop it sweet and get on with it.”
She’s getting on with it alright. She’s studying medicine next. What a magnificent mentor Melanie would make.
I once challenged Melanie to a race over 6 metres (not her preferred distance) and the discipline was doggy paddle. (Not her preferred stroke)
In the lead up I rang Laurie Lawrence and asked for tips on how to beat Melanie. His instantaneous response was “Forget it, Flan. She’s too mentally tough.”
Well, the baton has passed. As it does every day, every week, every year in every sport. I think it’s time to offer every available assistance to Grant with a hefty measure of tough love.
But please, reward the people who have delivered time after time after time.
Flan is half of the Flan & Emily Jade Breakfast Show which can be heard week days from 5am-9am on 102.9 Hot Tomato.