Grant Hackett has declared himself ready to join fellow Aussie Dawn Fraser, legendary founder of the triple Olympic crown club, and Hungarian backstroke and medley ace Krisztina Egerszegi in the elite members lounge by claiming the 30-lap title for a third successive time. No man has yet been granted access to Fraser's foundation.
At a media gathering in Kuala Lumpur, Aussie base before the Olympic Games in Beijing, the 28-year-old said: 'I think I'm swimming faster than I was in Sydney and Athens and I've just got to get up and do it. To win I'm going to need to swim faster than those times, because the standard and the depth of the other swimmers has picked up a lot. I'm probably more relaxed going into Beijing than I was in Sydney or Athens. I can't control how fast others can swim, but I can control how I go and I've done that to the best of my abilities. Physically, I feel like I've done everything.'
Hackett has left nothing to chance, recently revealing that he wears travel masks and observes the highest hygiene standards. He steers clear of public areas and even avoids touching handrails in order to avoid transmittable bugs.
'Even if I get sick now I know I've done the work, and everything now is up to chance. You just try to block it out. I feel like I'm mentally ready to deal with any situation,' said Hackett.
Asked whether he feels able to get back to his 2001 world record of 14:34.56, he told reporters: 'It's hard to say. Some days yes and some days no,' he said on whether he could set a new world mark. It's one of those things where heat times will be so fast in Beijing it may take an edge off the final. People will need to swim their best just to get in the final. But that's what I have been focusing on - swimming two 1500s in a row.'
Victory in the 30-lap battle 'would be the biggest moment of my career', said Hackett.
He recognises that there is a man in the Olympic pool who may have an even bigger moment. Asked if he believed Michael Phelps could win eight gold medals, Hackett said: 'I think Michael is capable of anything. If a couple of his competitors are a little bit off in their race and he is a little bit on, he has a tendency to really get on that wall and really bring it home. He is capable of achieving that goal, there are people that could possibly stop that dream from happening for him.'
Medals predictions are always rife on the cusp of a big events, as they have been this time for Phelps and for teams as a whole. It is not an exercise for Australian head coach Alan Thompson, who told the media: 'We don't make medals targets, we have some ideas of our team goals but we don't make medal tally predictions. These are athletes, it's not part of their process to think that way. I'm quite confident, we have a pretty good team here, we'll do pretty well but the Americans had a great trials, they're set to maintain their dominance.'
Australia's best counts are from Athens 2004, with seven gold medals, while the 1956 Games in Melbourne produced an astonishing eight golds, four silvers and two bronzes for the host nation. In 2004, the USA maintained the dominance it has held in the pool since the 1960 Games. Thompson said: 'Everyone on the team is aware of the strength of the US team. Our aim is to be the number one team in the world, we feel we can get closer and closer. When I started coaching, Americans would walk in and everyone look in awe. In the 1990s, we were intimidated by US but that's no longer the case.'