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Olympic swimming great found 'alive and sober' after disappearance

Grant Hackett’s father confirmed to local media that his son was was safe.

Hackett retired after the 2008 Beijing Olympics, having won the 1500m freestyle at both the 2000 Sydney and 2004 Athens Games.
Hackett retired after the 2008 Beijing Olympics, having won the 1500m freestyle at both the 2000 Sydney and 2004 Athens Games.
Image: AP/Press Association Images

OLYMPIC SWIMMING GREAT Grant Hackett is “alive and sober”, his father told media Thursday after he went missing following a family bust-up, sparking fears for his safety.

Hackett’s father Neville said Australia’s troubled former 1500m world record-holder, who was briefly detained this week after a domestic incident, was in contact with police.

“Police officers are happy he’s alive and sober,” Neville Hackett said, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).

“He’s told the police officers he just wants to hide from everybody.”

Hackett’s father raised the alarm earlier Thursday after his “mentally disturbed” son, 36, failed to turn up for appointments with a doctor and a lawyer.

Hackett had posted a picture on social media showing himself with a black eye, and accused his brother of beating him up.

“He’s in hiding from everybody, including us,” Hackett’s father said. “I think he’s very, very embarrassed, but let’s see how things go.”

The double Olympic gold medallist was released without charge Wednesday after his family called police following a reported bout of heavy drinking which led to “uncontrollable rage”.

His brother, Craig, said the former swimmer had mental health problems and was no longer the person he once knew.

On Thursday, Hackett posted a picture of himself on Instagram showing a cut and blackened right eye, and dry blood on his nose.

“My brother comments to the media… but does anyone know he beat the shit out of me,” Hackett wrote in the caption.

Hackett came out of six years of troubled retirement in 2014 in a bid to make the Rio Games, hoping to become the oldest Australian swimmer to qualify for an Olympics.

But he narrowly missed out on a berth and after the Olympic trials in Adelaide last April, he hit the headlines again after a meltdown on a plane.

- ‘Not the Grant we know’ -

Hackett was accused of drunkenly squeezing the nipple of a fellow business-class passenger in an embarrassing incident which prompted him to vow to quit drinking.

“This is now a chronic problem… so, from a mental health perspective, I hope something can be done,” Craig Hackett said Wednesday.

“This is not Grant Hackett, this is a completely different person. I don’t know this person, my mum and dad don’t know this person.

“He’s there in body, but he is not there in mind, in soul, or spirit,” he said.

Hackett mumbled a few words to reporters after his release, saying he was “not great” and “probably needed to” go into rehab.

Australian Olympic Committee president John Coates and Swimming Australia both offered their support.

“We are concerned for Grant’s welfare,” Coates said in a statement. “This is not the Grant we know and respect.

“Grant is a great Olympic champion, one of the greatest swimmers of all time… We hope he can overcome his current challenges.”

Swimming Australia chief executive Mark Anderson added: “Given these recent circumstances, we once again reached out to Grant and his family to continue to offer support and assistance in any way we can.”

Hackett retired after the 2008 Beijing Olympics, having won the 1500m freestyle at both the 2000 Sydney and 2004 Athens Games. He also claimed four world titles in the 30-length event.

But after retirement he quickly ran into problems with a messy divorce and allegations he smashed up his Melbourne home in 2011. In 2014, he checked into a US rehabilitation clinic to treat an addiction to sleeping pills.

- © AFP, 2017

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