Earlier today, Grant Hackett informed his management
that he would not be swimming at Melbourne’s 2006 Commonwealth Games,
where he was expected to win multiple gold medals.

The current Olympic champion and Australian swim team captain, has
called a 1.45pm news conference in Melbourne to explain his decision,
which is thought to be related to an on-going shoulder injury that has
been troubling him for some time. There is speculation he’s meeting
with a surgeon in Melbourne before he faces the media.

The shoulder
complaint caused him problems at the World Swimming Championships in
Montreal in July, yet despite his discomfort he still managed to become
the “swimmer of the championship” after he became the first swimmer in
history to win the 1,500m freestyle at four consecutive world titles and
also broke Ian Thorpe’s 800m freestyle world record.

However, his manager Brian Taylor, cryptically pointed to “other
reasons” also contributing to the decision, which will add an
additional layer of intrigue to this afternoon’s proceedings. That may relate
to a decision to target a newly introduced ten-kilometre open water endurance
race at the Beijing Olympics, which he sees as another major challenge.

Hackett has already
appealed to world swim body FINA to schedule it in the second week of the Games
to give him sufficient recovery time after his pet 1,500m. By missing Melbourne next year and getting himself absolutely
rehabilitated from injury, Hackett would give himself every chance of a sensational
long distance Olympic double that would make him
one of our greatest ever Olympians alongside Ian Thorpe, who will be swimming in

Taylor told Sky News that he only learnt of Hackett’s decision this morning and he confirmed that while it was no
secret in the swim world that Hackett was carrying a shoulder injury, clearly
the injury must now be far worse than previously acknowledged. Taylor added that while it had been an
extremely tough decision given it was Hackett’s home Commonwealth Games, “this
is only a minor hiccup. His ultimate aim remains Beijing.”

Australian swim legend Dawn Fraser told Sky News that
like the rest of Australia she was stunned by the news, and while she doesn’t
know the extent of his injury, she said it is far more difficult to overcome a
shoulder problem for a middle or distance swimmer like Hackett than a sprinter,
given the much greater repetition of swim strokes.

It also robs Melbourne of one of its drawcards, as Hackett
has been used extensively to promote the Games, even as organisers
continue to deny that tickets are not selling up to expectations.