Olympic Diary: Hackett's long-distance powers of conception

Grant Hackett, of Australia, who retained his 1500 metres freestyle title in the pool here on Saturday, revealed yesterday how he helps women to get pregnant.

Grant Hackett, of Australia, who retained his 1500 metres freestyle title in the pool here on Saturday, revealed yesterday how he helps women to get pregnant. And no, it's nothing as simple as that. His "gift" dates back to the 1998 Commonwealth Games, apparently, when he won the 1500m in Kuala Lumpur. Nine months later he received a letter from a woman who had just given birth to her first child. "Her and her husband had apparently been trying for ages," he explained. "But the night of my 1500, when I won gold, she conceived." It was a quirky tale, but it didn't unduly bother him until nine months after he won gold at the Sydney Olympic Games. He received another letter. "It was a different woman, but same thing," he said. "It's really quite bizarre but apparently when I swim the 1500 at this level I can conceive babies for people." Ahead of these Games, there was added pressure. "I got a letter from one of the women saying they were going to try again," he said. He added that, although he's sure the births have been coincidental, there might be some logic in couples spending his race, rather than anyone else's, trying to conceive. The 1500m takes around 15 minutes. "I suppose they're lucky I'm not a sprinter because that's all over in less than a minute," he said.

Synchronised Swimming might have its knockers (and an absence of men from the Olympic programme is often a reason for that), but its participants couldn't be more serious about their sport. Hence moves known as the Eggbeater, the Bent Knee combination, the Ballet Leg combination and the Rocket Split, and comments such as the following yesterday from America's Anna Kozlova: "We need another solid swim to beat them," she said. "We need to be very synchronised."

It was a good day for...

Inge de Bruijn, who celebrated her 31st birthday at a beach party in Athens where her skimpy white hot-pants stole the show. The Dutch sprint swimmer even put America's teenage sensation, Michael Phelps, in the shade. But when you're tall and blonde, arrive in a cherry-red stretch-Mini, and emerge via the sun-roof in hot-pants, maybe that's not so surprising.

It was a bad day for...

Japan's baseball team, who were the victims of Australia's 1-0 semi-final victory that guaranteed the Aussies their first medal in the sport. The Japanese brought their "Dream Team" of best pros here, but left the field yesterday saying they felt "crushed".

Quote of the day

"There is no reason to panic. It was a very small quake." - Giorgos Stavrakakis, a seismologist with the Athens Geodynamic Institute after an earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 4.5 on the Richter scale at 3.38pm local time yesterday. In 1999, a 5.9-magnitude quake near Athens killed 143 people, injured 2,000 and left thousands more homeless.

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