TORCH RELAY HONOUR FOR PINE
By ADAM HICKS
OLYMPIC gold medallist Adam Pine is better known as a swimmer but one of his proudest career achievements will be a 400m run.
The former Ballina butterfly specialist is one of only 80 Australians who will carry the Olympic torch when the relay passes Down Under on April 24, en route to Beijing.
The Olympic flame will only be on Australian soil for one day, in Canberra to be exact, and Pine said he was honoured to be involved.
The occasion will be extra special for Pine who plans to retire after the Beijing Olympics.
“It really is a great honour and I’m going to look forward to taking my 400m very slowly and enjoying every moment of it,” he said.
“They ask if you need an electric wheelchair or any support. I probably won’t need it but I won’t be breaking into too big a stride. I’ll just be walking and enjoying it.”
Pine will share the honour with fellow Northern Rivers produced athletes Petria Thomas and Kerry Saxby-Junna and some of the greats of Australian sport.
“There are various people inx volved and I’m just glad to be one of them. There’s Ron Clarke who lit the cauldron at Melbourne in 1956 and other great athletes and other great people,” he said.
Pine collected an Olympic gold medal for swimming in the heats of the 4x100m freestyle relay at the Sydney games and said one last shot at an individual gold would be the perfect swansong to his career.
“I will be retiring after Beijing,” he said.
“I now work for Swimming Australia so I will be associated with the sport for a long time to come.
“But as far as competing goes, 2008 will be it. I’m not thinking about it yet. Just the process along the way.
“At this stage I’m putting everything into it and it’s all going very well.”
The torch relay will come after Pine’s quest to win the Australian Swimming Championships 100m butterfly for the third year in a row.
“Its head down, bum up at the moment,” he said.
“Everything’s on track and going well but with just under six weeks to the nationals the workload is still very high.
“Currently ranked on times I will be going in (to the Championships) at number three.
“It is serious. There are three of us very close and it’s going to be a very hard event.
“Rankings and qualification times don’t mean anything; it comes down to who swims fastest wins qualification on the day.”
It has been 15 years since Pine swam at his first Australian Championships, but he admits that the pressure of swimming at an Olympic qualifying meet doesn’t get easier with age.
“I don’t know that it gets any easier, you just get better at using your experience,” said the 31-year-old.
“I’ll need to use every bit come March. At Olympics-based championships you need to be at your best.
“I’m definitely confident. Everything’s been going to plan.
“I made the decision six months ago to continue and really make a run for one more (Olympic) team and I wouldn’t have done that if I didn’t think I could make it.
“I’ll be 32 at the nationals. I’m still improving.
“I did my best time in 2006 and I’ve been very close to it for the past few years.”