Don Talbot, mastermind behind Australia's golden swimming era, dies aged 87

Don Talbot is being remembered as a “coaching magician” after the former Australian swimming mentor and inaugural Australian Institute of Sport director passed away on Tuesday, aged 87.

The International Swimming Hall of Fame member first took charge of Australia’s swim team in the 1960s and held official titles at seven Olympic Games. He also enjoyed stints with both Canada and the United States and was named the inaugural director of the Australian Institute of Sport in 1980.

The master strategist returned as Australian swimming’s head coach in 1989, overseeing a resurgence that culminated in 18 medals – five of them gold – at Sydney’s 2000 Olympics.

Australia then topped the medal count at Japan’s 2001 world championships, the Fukuoka meet marking the country’s first defeat of the Americans in the pool since Melbourne’s 1956 Games.

Originally a teacher, Talbot made his name as a swimming coach by steering Latvian-born siblings John and Ilsa Konrads to world records in the 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyle.

Talbot was inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 1990, current chairman John Bertrand on Wednesday remembering a “fiercely loyal and supportive” coach who transformed his domain.

“Don Talbot was at the helm of Australia’s golden swimming era,” he said. “A coaching magician who returned the Australian national squad to its best results in over 30 years at the Sydney 2000 Olympics, he changed the way people thought about high performance.

“We have much to thank Don for and his legacy will remain as one of Australia’s most successful swimming coaches and a true inspiration. He will be missed by all, in and out of the pool around the world.”

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Talbot served on six Commonwealth Games teams – three as head coach and three as coach – and held a staunch belief that Australia should be the world’s No 1 swimming nation given its proximity to water.

Respected US-based Swimming World Magazine described Talbot as “a giant in coaching” while Swimming Canada sent their “thoughts to his family and friends in a tribute on Twitter.


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