SYDNEY - Dual Olympic champion Grant Hackett capped one of the great swimming comebacks by earning a spot in Australia's team on Sunday for the Kazan world championships in July.
Needing a top-six 200m freestyle finish to seal a place in the relay team, Hackett finished fourth in 1min 46.84sec as Cameron McEvoy (1:45.94) retained his national title at the world trials.
Hackett, 34, had initially claimed that making the team after just six months' training and a six-year layoff would feel like "winning an Olympic gold medal".
But his achievement meant so much more after Hackett reflected on how much he had turned his life around in the past 12 months. He was immersed in a messy divorce amid allegations that he smashed up his Melbourne apartment.
"If you had asked me 10 years ago if the only thing that got me on the team was on the relay it would be bitter disappointment," Hackett told reporters. "But right now, it is one of the biggest achievements of my life."
Hackett last year sought treatment for sleeping pill addiction and underwent rehab in the United States.
Yet, his professional demons went back as far as his last major meet at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games where he was denied a record third-straight 1,500m gold medal when he was out-touched by Tunisia's Oussama Mellouli.
"I will be honest. I hated the sport for a long time," Hackett said.
"To discover a love for something that has been such a big part of my life is really pleasing now because I don't walk away with that taste of Olympic silver by a few hundredths of a second.
"I can really enjoy the sport for what it is now."
Elsewhere on the third night of the trials, Mitch Larkin (53.10) claimed the 100m backstroke final in the fastest time in the world this year.
Emily Seebohm (58.91) held out Madison Wilson (58.94) to win her sixth national 100m backstroke title in seven years.
Taylor McKeown, the Commonwealth Games 200m breaststroke champion, claimed the 100m title (1:07.07) ahead of defending champion and Glasgow silver medallist Lorna Tonks (1:07.46).
Chelsea Gubecka (16:23.95) won the women's 1,500m freestyle final.