Legendary swimming coach dies

Legendary Australian swimming coach Don Talbot has died aged 87.

Talbot was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1979. He began his career coaching siblings John and Ilsa Konrads in the 1950s, guiding them both to set world records in the 400, 800 and 1500m freestyle events.

In the lead up to the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games, Talbot was named the head of the Australian men’s team, leading the likes of Ian O’Brien, Bob Windle, Beverley Whitfield and Gail Neall to Olympic gold medal success. Talbot held the position from 1964–1972, combining for 14 medals over the three Olympic cycles.

After a short stint coaching overseas in Canada, Talbot returned to Australia to take up the position of inaugural Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) director.

After three years at the AIS, and another stint coaching overseas, Talbot returned to swimming as head coach of the Australian National Swim Team in 1989. His ‘no nonsense’ style led Australia back to the top of world swimming with strong results at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, and overtaking swimming powerhouse US to top the gold medal tally at the 2001 World Swimming Championships.

The Australian Sports Commission chair John Wylie said he was deeply saddened to hear of Talbot’s passing.

“Don was instrumental in establishing a new high-performance culture for Australian sport, stepping into the newly formed director role when the AIS was first established 40 years ago," Mr Wylie said.

“Don’s foresight, knowledge and sheer tenacity were essential in those formative years. As the inaugural AIS Director he was a leader of sporting pioneers, helping to deliver a world-leading AIS that became the blueprint of many international sporting systems we see today.”

AIS CEO Peter Conde said: “Don was a champion for putting athletes and coaches at the forefront, he set the groundwork to re-establish Australia as a sporting strength in the world.

“A world-class swim coach in his own right, Don personally recruited the coaches to lead eight foundation sports at the AIS and 152 inaugural scholarship athletes.

“Now the AIS has facilities and connections around the country, it is part of a National Institute Network that supports more than 2200 athletes. We have the utmost respect for what Don achieved in our history, but we also acknowledge the influence his work still has on inspiring our future.

“The AIS celebrates its 40th anniversary in January next year, and it is with great sadness that Don won’t be around to help us acknowledge the indelible legacy that he started back in 1981.”

Was there a more influential sports coach in Australian Olympic history? Are you disappointed there were no Olympics this year? Do you think the Olympics will go ahead next year?



I remember being at the local baths when Talbot was there training the Konrad twins -- I had my son there teaching him which I had done for years,  Talbot remarked on how well he swam and suggested I have him trained and asked his age -- when I said almost 6 he said he was a bit young as yet but he sure had a future.

No, I never went down that track as I wanted my son to enjoy his life and not force anything on him


Not twins.  When they burst on the world record scene, John was 15 and Ilsa 13.

Should have said Conrad KIDS -- thanks dstark


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