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Hackett makes successful return to competition

Written by: Staff

SYDNEY, May 14 (Reuters) Australia's Olympic and world swimming champion Grant Hackett made a successful return to the pool with a runaway victory at a grand prix meet in Brisbane.

Hackett cruised to victory in the 400 metres freestyle in three minutes 46.99 seconds, a time that would have won him the gold medal at this year's Commonwealth Games in Melbourne.

Hackett was forced to miss the Games while recovering from an operation to repair torn cartilage in his right shoulder but is now back in heavy training.

''That youthful enthusiasm is back. I'm certainly motivated to get back into swimming and swimming very fast,'' Hackett told reporters yesterday.

Although Hackett is the reigning world champion over 400m, winning the title in Montreal last year when compatriot Ian Thorpe was absent, his favourite event is the 1500m.

Hackett is already the most successful endurance swimmer in history and his domination of the gruelling event has started to take on legendary proportions.

He is unbeaten over the distance since 1996 and his world record of 14:34.56 is more than seven seconds faster than anyone else has ever swum.

Hackett won his first world title in 1998 and his fourth in a row at last year's world championships in Montreal, where he was named best male swimmer of the meet.

He captured his first Olympic gold medal in Sydney six years ago then his second in Athens despite swimming the final with a partially collapsed lung.

Hackett has set his sights set on winning a fifth 1500m title at next's world championships in Melbourne and a third Olympic gold medal at Beijing in 2008 and wants to keep on swimming after that.

''If I even thought about retirement right now I would regret it,'' he said. ''I really feel my best swims are yet to come.'' REUTERS DH HS1316

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