1996: Danyon Loader swims into history

Dunedin's Danyon Loader felt like a greyhound chasing a lure when he won his second Olympic swimming gold medal at the Atlanta Games yesterday.

With his long, almost languid style, Loader swam into New Zealand Olympic history by winning the 400m freestyle to go with the 200m crown he captured at the weekend.

The 21-year-old yesterday moved from fourth place at the midway stage to first at the 300m mark and then surged again in the closing 50m to win going away by more than one second from Englishman Paul Palmer and Australian Daniel Kowalski.

Loader later revealed it was not his competitors he was racing but a camera on the bottom of the pool.

Asked about his tactics for the race, Loader said, "Going into the race the most I ever said to myself was `Go hard'.

"But I was in lane six where it's a little bit distracting, because you've got that camera on the bottom of the pool, which is always just in front of you.

"I used it as an incentive and was trying to catch up with it."

The Dunedin swimmer won the race with the ninth-fastest time in history, recording 3min 47.79sec. Palmer was second in 3min 49sec.

New Zealand chef de mission Dr Dave Gerrard said Loader would now enter history as a "legend" and in the same category as Peter Snell, who won three gold medals including the 800m-1500m track double in Tokyo in 1964, where Gerrard competed as a swimmer.

Loader captured the imagination of those gathered for the press conference, drawing applause for the passionate way he described his relationship with coach Duncan Laing who has trained him for the past 11 years.

"Aside from my parents, he's the most influential person in my life," Loader said.

"I've given 11 years of my life to him and to the swimming pool.

"I can't describe what he has done for me. He is a tremendous coach and I think he's just hitting his prime - he's just great."

Loader has yet to think about plans for the future apart from spending time travelling around the United States when the Olympics are over.

"I just want to have a good time, just have a holiday."

He is scheduled to contest the 100m butterfly today and then has a day off before he swims the butterfly leg in the 4x100m medley relay on Saturday morning (New Zealand time) which New Zealand enter as world short-course champions.

New Zealand swimming must not waste the double Olympic golden glory of the inspirational Danyon Loader, Mr Laing said last night. Swimming would not slide downhill as hockey did after winning gold at Montreal in 1976 and like soccer after making the World Cup finals in 1982.

Mr Laing said he wanted swimming to become a leading summer sport in New Zealand.

Swimming's problem to date, possibly like other sports, had bee a lack of finances, but Loader's two golds in three days would set the sport on a path it had never been down before, he said.

Big international sponsors would now see the benefit in making mileage out of Loader and swimming, which would lift the sport to heights it had never reached before, he added.

"Until now it's been like getting blood out of a stone [getting] money out of the Lotteries Commission. Surely, if we could get a little more we could develop our youngsters and give them a chance."

"If you are a rugby player and get picked for the rep side you get the best accommodation, you get a new bag, new uniform, new boots, socks and now they're paid.

"A swimmer gets picked for the New Zealand team, they get put in the poorest accommodation. Usually it's a school that's closed down. We sleep on the floor. We don't get any uniform because we can't afford it. We spend all our money just getting to the venues."

He paid tribute to the people of Dunedin for their fund-raising efforts which played a vital part in Loader's golden Olympics.

"It helped pay for our altitude swimming at Los Alamos. It's been money well spent and Danyon and I really appreciate what the people of Dunedin and New Zealand have done for us."


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