Kieren Perkins replaces John Bertrand as the new President of Swimming Australia ©Getty Images

Two-time Olympic gold medallist Kieren Perkins has been elected as the new President of Swimming Australia.

Perkins steps into the role vacated by John Bertrand after he was voted in at the organisation’s Annual General Meeting.

His appointment comes a week after Leigh Russell announced that she would be stepping down as chief executive at the end of this month.

Swimming Australia confirmed chief operating officer Tim Dempster would act as interim chief executive while a "comprehensive executive search" is undertaken to find a permanent replacement for Russell.

Perkins is considered one of Australia’s greatest distance swimmers having won gold in the 1500-metre freestyle at Barcelona 1992 and Atlanta 1996.

He broke numerous world records in his career and was the first person in history to hold the Olympic, World, Commonwealth and Pan Pacific titles simultaneously.

Following his retirement in 2000, Perkins who amassed 23 medals at international competitions was inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 2002.

Kieren Perkins clinched gold at Barcelona 1992 and Atlanta 1996 before retiring in 2000 ©Getty Images
Kieren Perkins clinched gold at Barcelona 1992 and Atlanta 1996 before retiring in 2000 ©Getty Images

Russell said Perkins’ swimming pedigree spoke for itself and felt he had the business acumen to help navigate the organisation following the COVID-19 pandemic.

"He has spent a huge portion of his life in the sport and has that great blend of understanding the nuances of swimming and strategic experience from the corporate sector," Russell said.

Only the United States have won more Olympic swimming medals than Australia who have achieved 60 golds, 64 silvers and 64 bronzes.

Perkins vowed to ensure swimming remained strong in Australia as he bids for a successful Olympics in Tokyo in Japan next year.

"I have a strong desire to maintain swimming’s position as Australia’s most successful Olympic sport and with only a year out from Tokyo it’s important to keep a level of stability and focus," said Perkins.

"We need to keep building momentum and heading into an Olympic and Paralympic year there is no better opportunity to bring the sport and the country together and inspire future generations.

"More broadly, I would also like to work on connecting the dots within the sport’s wider community – bringing more people to our sport and growing and nurturing the stars of the future through our pathway to the elite."