Friday, January 29, 2021

93 years ago today, history of swimming began in the City of Fort Lauderdale with the Casino pool...

93 years ago today, on January 29, 1928, the City of Fort Lauderdale dedicated the Las Olas Casino Pool (1928-1967), the first Olympic-sized swimming pool in the State of Florida and consequently launchedFort Lauderdale as a tourist destination. Our community would forever be famous for swimming!

Located directly on the beach at what is now known as D.C. Alexander Park, just south of Las Olas Boulevard, this beautiful Spanish-style facility was engineered by Clifford Root and filled twice a week with salt water directly from the Atlantic Ocean. The Casino Pool was home to the nation's top swimmers for decades, namely, Katherine Rawls, Fort Lauderdale's first celebrity of sport and international athletic ambassador.

Records indicate the pool cost $125,000, and measured 50.38 meters by 18.3 meters (165 feet long and 60 feet wide / 55 yards by 20 yards).  


The first concrete was poured on November 27, 1927.  Considering the number of holidays in this season and that no night was done, this was a record time for constructing a building of this size and type.

Costing approximately $125,000 to build, the Las Olas Casino was 165 feet long and 60 feet wide with 12 lanes requiring 422,000 of salt water from the Atlantic Ocean to fill.

Locker rooms were located underneath the pool

Bleacher on one side, children’s wading pool, pavilion and veranda facing the ocean

Spanish minaret tower was only used at night when flood lights were needed

The volunteer Red Cross Lifesaving Corp of Fort Lauderdale had a special dressing room and club room

Concession stand located in the northeast corner of the venue was operated by the Fort Lauderdale Service Company, RC Henderson


Architect - Francis Abreu

Contractor – John Olsson

Plumbing – Weidmueller & Schlemmer

Wrought Iron – Ogden-Langmead

Lumber – Fort Lauderdale Lumber

Gate City Sash & Door

Fort Lauderdale Mercantile

Raymond-Clopeck Hardware Co.

The Casino Pool remained at the forefront of the swimming scene for nearly half a century, and witnessed a great deal of history.  In 1965 the City built a 5-acre man-made peninsula to house a new aquatic center followed by the International Swimming Hall of Fame dedication in 1968.   Today, continuing the great tradition of aquatic sports, plans are underway for improvements at the aquatic center that will enrich our community and inspire new generations of swimmers and divers.

Ian McAllister, Grandson of 1920 Olympic Medallist, Hilda James, becomes "One in A Thousand"

Ian McAllister, the grandson of 1920 Olympic medalist and Hall of Fame pioneer swimmer Hilda James, has joined ISHOF’s “One in a Thousand campaign,” designed to help the hall prosper during the difficult financial times of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The Hall of Fame gave me a lot of help over several generations of Hall of Famers,” Ian McAllister said. “I was quite touched by the way Bruce approached it. When I brought the book over and before I applied to put her in the Hall of Fame, he showed us around the museum and he wouldn’t put the book down. I gave it to him and he carried it with him all the way around.


Ian McAllister accepting Hilda James’ induction. Photo Courtesy: International Swimming Hall of Fame

“The thing that made him the most passionate about the Hall of Fame was the pioneers of swimming. Until we had walked in, he had not know anything about Hilda. He said, ‘here is someone that should be here but has almost completely disappeared in history.’ It really struck me that my whole project with her book is a record to keep the story of swimming, if you like, in one place and I thought it was worth donating because of all the encouragement I had from them. I’m not a swimmer but I think it is important.”

James had put McAllister in charge of writing her biography when he was 12-years-old in the mid-1970s when she started living near his family after her husband passed away. He spent a lot of time with his grandmother on the countryside about 10 miles north of Liverpool where he learned of her story, how she only took up swimming because her family wouldn’t let her go to religious education lessons and was not encouraged to swim and shouldn’t aspire to be anything else than what her family already was.

“My wife and I went to Miami for a vacation a few years ago,” Ian McAllister said. “I phoned Bruce Wigo at the time and asked him if I could give him a copy of my book (on Hilda’s life) and we got a tour after hours in Fort Lauderdale. He got really excited about it and said I needed to start the process to get her in the Hall of Fame. It took a few years but it is a really exciting thing.”

Join the One in a Thousand Club by helping ISHOF on a monthly or one-time basis.


For larger corporate sponsorships and estate-planning donations, please contact us at

Hilda James – 2016 Honor Pioneer Swimmer


Hilda James. Photo Courtesy: ISHOF Archives

To avoid attending Church of England religious education classes, which conflicted with her parents religious beliefs, this 11-year old Liverpudlian was assigned to swimming classes at the Garston Baths.

Five years later, Hilda James was Great Britain’s best female swimmer and left for the 1920 Olympic Games with high expectations. Unfortunately in Amsterdam, the USA women completely dominated, sweeping the gold, silver and bronze medals in the 100m and 300m freestyle, the only individual swimming events for women at the 1920 Games. And while the British did win silver medals in the 4x100m relay, they finished a full 30 seconds behind the Americans. The following day Hilda cheekily asked the American coach, Lou de B. Handley, to teach her the American Crawl.

In 1922, Hilda was invited by her American friends to visit the USA for the summer racing season. While she was still behind the American stars Helen Wainwright and Gertrude Ederle, she was closing the gap.

By 1924, Hilda James held every British and European freestyle record from 100 meters to the mile, and a handful of world records as well. She easily made the 1924 Olympic team, and it was widely believed that she would return from Paris with a handful of medals. When Hilda’s mother insisted she accompany her daughter as chaperone, and the British Olympic Committee refused to fund her tip, saying she needed to budget it herself. Hilda’s mother refused to let her go. Unfortunately, Hilda was not yet 21, legally a minor and under the care of her parents – and had to obey.

Hilda turned 21 shortly after the Olympic Games, gained her independence, and took a job with the Cunard Shipping Company, traveling the world as a celebrity spokesperson, at a time when women were just starting to gain their freedom.

We will never know how Hilda would have fared in the 1924 Olympic Games, but she was a trailblazer and one of Europe’s first female sports superstars who inspired future generations of girls to follow in her wake.

The United States and Great Britain won all of the women’s swimming medals at the 1924 Games in Paris, excluding Sweden’s bronze in the 4×100 free relay, the only relay contested at the Games nearly 100 years ago. To this day, it is believed James could have been a gold medalist had she competed against the likes of Ederle, Martha Norelius, the first woman to win back to back gold medals in swimming, and Britain’s lone gold medalist in the pool that year Lucy Morton. In 1925, James left amateur swimming for good.

Hilda James was officially inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame as a pioneer swimmer in 2016.

“I received a letter through the post that she had been selected for induction,” Ian McAllister said. “I was so excited, I couldn’t believe it. It was the pinnacle of the whole project. I wanted to leave a record for my son because he didn’t know Hilda and I was given the chance to place that record into the history which is beyond belief. It is wonderful.


The International Swimming Hall of Fame wants to know if you are one in a thousand?  We think you are! Show how special you are and become a member of the International Swimming Hall of Fame’s “One In A Thousand” Club.  Help keep the International Swimming Hall of Fame moving forward toward a new vision and museum by joining now!

During these unprecedented times, the ISHOF Board is calling on every member in the aquatic community to make a small monthly commitment of support to show how special you are and how special the International Swimming Hall of Fame is to everyone.

Our goal is simple. If we get 1,000 people to simply commit $10, $25 or $50 per month, we will generate enough revenue to go beyond this Covid-19 Pandemic Crisis.” – Bill Kent – Chairman of the ISHOF Board

Those that believe in our vision, mission, and goals can join us in taking ISHOF into the future and be a part of aquatic history.”  – Brent Rutemiller – CEO and President of ISHOF

Since 1965, ISHOF has been the global focal point for recording and sharing the history of aquatics, promoting swimming as an essential life-skill, and developing educational programs and events related to water sports. ISHOF’s vision for the future is to build a new museum and expand its reach by offering its museum artifacts digitally through a redesigned website.

The ISHOF Board of Directors is calling on all members of the aquatics community to make a small monthly commitment to show their dedication to aquatics and how special the International Swimming Hall of Fame is to everyone.

Happy Birthday Greg Louganis!!!


GREG LOUGANIS (USA) 1993 Honor Diver

FOR THE RECORD: OLYMPIC GAMES: 1976 silver (platform), 1980 (boycott), 1984 gold (springboard & platform), 1988 gold (springboard & platform); WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS: 1978 gold (platform), 1982 gold (springboard & platform), 1986 gold (springboard & platform); PAN AMERICAN GAMES: 1979 gold (springboard & platform), 1983 gold (springboard & platform), 1987 gold (springboard & platform); FINA CUP: 1979 gold (platform), 1981 silver (springboard), 1983 gold (springboard & platform), 1987 gold (springboard); U.S. NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS: 47.

Known as the king of diving, Louganis reigned over his sport for more than a decade with grace, power, and unequaled precision.

Winner of the coveted James E. Sullivan award for outstanding achievements in athletics in 1984, Greg established himself as the USA's best athlete. Not only is Louganis the only male diver in history to win both springboard and platform gold medals for diving in consecutive Olympic Games, 1984 and 1988, a third set of double wins would have probably been his, too, if it were not for the USA's boycott of the 1980 Olympic Games.

One man who came close to matching Louganis' Olympic record was his first coach, Dr. Sammy Lee, who won consecutive platform titles at the 1948 Olympic Games in London and the 1952 Games in Helsinki.  It was  Sammy Lee who spotted the talents of Louganis in 1971 when Louganis scored a perfect ten at the age of eleven at the AAU Junior Olympics.   Louganis was soon training with Sammy Lee and went on to win a silver medal at the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal.  It was evident that Greg was on his way to becoming one of the best divers the world has ever seen.

In 1978, Ron O'Brien, also a world-class diver like Lee, joined the staff at Mission Viejo. That year Greg won both World championships titles and defeated the long-time platform champion Klaus Dibiasi of Italy.  For the next decade, Greg Louganis was the man to beat on the boards, dominating every national and international competition he entered.

Like many athletes, Greg anticipated the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow.  Unfortunately, the United States government boycotted the Games in protest of the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan.  Disappointed, but not discouraged, Louganis decided to continue to pursue his dream.

In 1984 Louganis became the first man in 56 years to win two Olympic gold medals in diving.  Hall of Famer Pete Desjardins of Miami had done it at the 1928 Games in Paris.  In 1988, competing against divers half his age, Louganis became the first man to win double gold medals for diving in two consecutive Olympic Games, a feat duplicated only once in Olympic history by women's champion Pat McCormick in 1952-1956.

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Happy Birthday Libby Trickett !!!

Libby Trickett (AUS) 2018 Honor Swimmer

FOR THE RECORD: 2004 OLYMPIC GAMES: gold (4×100m freestyle), bronze (50m freestyle); 2008 OLYMPIC GAMES: gold (100m butterfly, 4x100m medley), silver (100m freestyle), bronze (4x100m freestyle); 2012 OLYMPIC GAMES: gold (4x100m freestyle); 2003 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS (LC): bronze (50m freestyle, 4x100m freestyle); 2005 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS (LC): gold (50m freestyle, 4x100m freestyle, 4x100m medley), silver (100m butterfly, 4×200m freestyle); 2007 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS (LC): gold (50m freestyle, 100m freestyle, 100m butterfly, 4×100 m freestyle, 4×100m medley); 2009 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS (LC): silver (4×100 m medley), bronze (100m freestyle, 4×100 m freestyle); 2004 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS (SC): gold (100m freestyle, 4×100m medley), silver (50m freestyle, 4×200m freestyle), bronze (50m butterfly, 4×100m freestyle); 2006 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS (SC): gold (50m freestyle, 100m freestyle, 100m butterfly, 4×200m freestyle, 4×100m medley) silver (4×100m freestyle); 2006 Commonwealth Games: gold (50m freestyle, 100m freestyle, 4×100m freestyle, 4×200m freestyle, 4×100m medley), silver (200m freestyle, 100m butterfly)

Libby Lenton, joined her first swim team at age four. By age ten, she was one of Queensland’s top age groupers. In 1995, the family moved to Brisbane, where Libby started training under coach John Carew, mentor of Hall of Famer, Kieren Perkins. But in early 2002, Libby began training under coach Stephan Widmar.

Her progress under Widmar was rapid and explosive. Suddenly, the 18-year old girl who had never reached the podium at the state level, stood on the top step four times, for the 50 and 100m freestyle and 50 and 100m butterfly, at the Queensland Champs in January, 2003. This qualified her for the Australian Senior National Team.

She made her international debut in April at the inaugural Mutual of Omaha “Duel in the Pool” meet in Indianapolis. She beat Hall of Famer Jenny Thompson to win the 100m freestyle. She finished first in the 50m freestyle in 24.92, but she was disqualified for a false start. However, officials later ruled her start was fair and she was credited with setting a new Australian record and the first Australian to break 25 seconds.

Libby qualified for and swam in three events in the 2004 Athens Olympic Games. She earned a bronze medal in the 50m freestyle and her 4x100m freestyle relay team made up of Libby, Petria Thomas, Jodie Henry and Alice Mills overtook Team USA on the final leg to win the gold in the event for the first time in 48 years!

Libby cemented her position among the world’s top swimmers in 2005. First at the Montreal FINA World Championships by reeling in gold in the 50m freestyle, silver in the 100m butterfly and two golds and a silver for the three relays. Back in Australia, she twice broke the world record in the 100m freestyle at the Telstra Australian Short Course Championships.

In 2006, it was on to Shanghai, for the Short Course World Championships, where she repeated her performance, won five of Australia’s twelve gold medals, as well as being named “Leading Female Swimmer of the Meet”.

Libby won five more gold medals at the 2007 FINA World Championships. This time, three individual, the 50 and 100m freestyle and the 100m butterfly as well as two relays, with the 4x100m freestyle relay in a record-breaking time of 3:35.48. A week later, at the third USA-Australia “Duel in the Pool” in Sydney, she led off the 4x100m mixed relay against Michael Phelps. Although Phelps beat her to the wall, her time of :52.99, broke the world record of Britta Steffens by nearly a third of a second. A race she says she’ll always remember. Four days later, on April 7, 2007, Libby married fellow swimmer, Luke Trickett and started swimming under the name Libby Trickett.

Her performance at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games brought her two gold, one silver and one bronze. She was part of the world record winning relay team, the 4x100m medley relay, that brought home the gold, and her 4x100m freestyle relay team took bronze. Individually, Trickett won a gold medal in the 100m butterfly and took silver in the 100m freestyle.

Libby briefly retired from swimming in 2009, at the age of 24, but decided to return to competition in 2010 to be part of the 4x100m freestyle relay team at the 2012 London Olympic Games, winning yet another gold, her fourth and final Olympic gold medal of her career. Libby retired in 2013 for the final time.

Libby gave birth to daughter Poppy in 2015 and struggled with the transition to motherhood. Trickett had struggled with depression throughout other times in her life as well. She had worked with sports psychologists and by seeking that advice and guidance, Libby says, that “the biggest lesson she learned was that it’s OK to ask for help and that help is really valuable.” Libby is currently Queensland’s Mental Health Ambassador. In early 2018, Libby and her husband Luke had their second daughter, Eddie and in November, 2019 they had their third daughter, beautiful Bronte.

Libby also published her memoir, "Beneath the Surface" in the Fall of 2019.

Friday, January 22, 2021

On this day in 1893, ISHOF Honor Pioneer Swimmer and Cal Bear, Ludy Langer was born.....

LUDY LANGER (USA) 1988 Honor Pioneer Swimmer

FOR THE RECORD: OLYMPIC GAMES: 1920 silver (400m freestyle); WORLD RECORDS: 2 (440yd, 500m freestyle); U.S. NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS: 8 from 1915-1921.

Ludwig "Ludy" Ernest Frank Langer was an American swimmer who competed in freestyle events. He was one of six Hawaii-based swimmers who competed at the 1920 Summer Olympics in Antwerp, Belguim, and collectively won seven medals

Langer won a silver medal in the 400 meter freestyle at Antwerp.  He set two world records in the 440 yard and 500 meter freestyle and won eight U.S. National Championships from 1915 through 1921.  He held the world record in the quarter mile for five years until he lost it to Hall of Famer, Norman Ross, the same Ross who touched him out for the 400 meter gold at Antwerp.  

Langer was just hitting his stride with a victory in Hawaii over the legendary Duke Kahanamoku, when World War I interrupted his career.  He returned to win his last two Nationals in 1921.

This from  Cal Blog's FANPOST in December 2012:

The University of California has an extraordinary tradition of excellence in the sport of swimming. Cal students and alumni have won a total of 63 Olympic medals in swimming: 29 Gold, 21 Silver, and 13 Bronze. Two of Cal's all-time greatest athletes are swimmers: Matt Biondi, who has 12 Olympic medals, and Natalie Coughlin, who has 11 (and counting). And, of course, the Cal men's swimming team and the Cal women's swimming team have each just won back-to-back national championships. This tradition of Cal swimming glory can be traced back to one individual, Cal's first great swimmer, Ludy Langer.

To read the entire article and learn more about Lundy Langer from Cal's FANPOST, visit:

Happy Birthday Karen Moe !!

KAREN MOE  (USA) 1992 Honor Swimmer

FOR THE RECORD: OLYMPIC GAMES: 1972 gold (200m butterfly), 1976 4th place (200m butterfly); WORLD RECORDS: 4 (200m butterfly); AAU CHAMPIONSHIPS: 3 (200yd butterfly, 1 relay); AMERICAN RECORDS (Short Course): 1 (100yd butterfly); AMERICAN RECORDS (Long Course): 3 (200yd butterfly); OLYMPIC TRIALS: 1976 1st (200m butterfly).

Although she was born in Del Monoe, the Philippines, Karen Moe and her family settled in Orinda, California.  At age eight she started swimming and after joining the Orinda Aqua Bears Swim Team, she competed for the next eight years as an age group swimmer.  It was not until 1968, at age fifteen, that she competed in her first World Championship.

During those years she had to overcome two spinal deformities, for which she was required to wear a corrective back brace at all times, except when in the water.  In 1970 she set the world record in the 200-meter butterfly, taking the record from the legendary Ada Kok of Holland, and overcoming a bout with shoulder tendonitis attributed to the many yards swum in practice sessions.  Soon after, she and her family moved to Santa Clara where she swam for Coach George Haines at the Santa Clara Swim Club.  Said Haines, "Karen is the type of girl that's a great competitor and she's an intelligent racer. She's one of the smartest swimmers I've ever dealt with, in or out of the water."  Under Haines, Karen set the world record an additional three times.

Her greatest individual achievement was at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games where Karen won the 200-meter butterfly in world record time--two minutes, 15.56 seconds.  It was a clean sweep by the American girls with Lynn Colella (second) and Ellie Daniel (third).  She also placed forth in the 100-meter backstroke.

She returned home to a heroine's welcome and soon enrolled at UCLA in Kinesiology.  She took a two year layoff, but the Bruin's coach Colleen Graham convinced her to swim for the team.  They were contenders for the women's collegiate national championship, and Karen became the national collegiate champion in the 200-yard butterfly, training the collegiate season from October through March only.

It was after graduation in  1976 that she married fellow student Mike Thornton and again began training for a second Olympic Games, even though she was considered an "old lady" at age 23.  She made the team to Montreal, was elected the team captain and placed fourth in the 200-meter fly in an Olympics that saw the girls from the German Democratic Republic win every event but two.

Karen then retired from swimming, but again not for long.  She coached at the Beverly Hills YMCA for two years and in 1978 became the head women's coach at the University of California, coaching forty-nine All-Americans and nine Olympians. She is a three-time conference Coach of the Year and 1987 NCAA Coach of the Year.

All totaled, she won eighteen U.S. National Championships, setting seven American records.  She was a member of the first U.S. Sports Team to make the Goodwill Trip to the Peoples Republic of China following the Ping-Pong Exchange in 1973.

ISHOF Museum One Step Closer To Getting New Buildings

The Fort Lauderdale City Commission voted to accept an unsolicited bid from the Hall of Fame Partners, LLC to replace the front and back International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF) museum buildings.  The proposal was accepted and will be revisited again after 21 days to allow additional competitive bids to be presented.  The new building will complement the $45 million renovation of the aquatic center which is scheduled to be completed in the Fall (2021).

The ISHOF main museum was constructed in the 1960s and has exceeded its life expectancy.  The swimmer man statue will be refurbished and relocated on the property.

Hall of Fame Original Museum

Photo Courtesy: International Swimming Hall of Fame

The proposed plan will replace the existing museum with a 5-floor building.  A teaching pool will be located under grandstands that overlook the newly renovated aquatic complex. On the ground level there will be a public gathering place, kiosks, and an ISHOF gift shop. The second floor will feature much needed public parking.  The third floor will have skyboxes overlooking the new 27-meter-high diving tower and a multilevel museum for exhibits. The fourth floor will have meeting rooms, an event center and office space.  The top floor will feature a restaurant with breath-taking views overlooking the intracoastal and Atlantic Ocean.

ISHOF Museum. Dusk

Photo Courtesy: International Swimming Hall of Fame – Arquitectonica

The ISHOF front building was built in the early 1990s and will be replaced with an iconic four floor building that will include a welcome center, coffee shop, observation deck, and office space.   The current building was iconic for its time because of its wave design.


Photo Courtesy: ISHOF

Arquitectonica designed the original wave building and has partnered with the current developers to make the new front building more iconic with the letters SWIM stretched across the street side and DIVE stretched across the pool side of the building


Photo Courtesy: ISHOF – Arquitectonica

“The replacement of ISHOF’s two buildings is the final step in the total renovation of this aquatic peninsula.  The Fort Lauderdale City Commissioners and Manager have displayed incredible vision for supporting this project.  It will catapult Fort Lauderdale and the International Swimming Hall of Fame to the top of the aquatic world and reestablish Fort Lauderdale as an international destination unparalleled in the aquatic community,” said Brent Rutemiller – President and CEO of the International Swimming Hall of Fame.

The Hall of Fame Partners, LLC is a joint venture of local developers specializing in Public Private Partnerships, and the most awarded Design Builder in the United States.  The group is led by Mario Caprini – CEO & Development Executive of Capital Group P3 Developments of Florida LLC, Laird Heikens – President, Development Hensel Phelps, Kirk Hazen – Vice President, Construction Hensel Phelps, and Cory Olson – Project Executive Hensel Phelps

“We are very pleased that the city is allowing us to take the next step in bringing this important upgrade to the city for its citizens and the aquatic community.  We are very excited to be a part of this project,” said Mario Caprini.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Passages: Harry Gallagher, Legendary Coach of Dawn Fraser, Dies at 96

Legendary Australian Olympic swim coach Harry Gallagher OAM – the mastermind behind Aussie swimming greats Dawn Fraser and Jon Henricks – passed away peacefully early today on the Gold Coast.

“The Crafty Fox” as he was fondly known around the pool decks throughout his colourful 96 years was surrounded by his family and his greatest protégé in four-time Olympic champion Fraser who drove from the Sunshine Coast last night to say her final fond farewells to “Mr Gallagher.”


ALWAYS MR GALLAGHER: Another legend leaves the pool deck. Legendary swim coach Harry Gallagher with “His Dawn” on the Gold Coast in 2019. Photo Courtesy: Hanson Media Group Collection

Their’s was as special a swimmer-coach relationship as there’s ever been in Australian sport – Dawn forever remaining in contact with Harry who was always “Mr Gallagher” to “His Dawny”, right till the last lap.

The triple Olympic golden girl of the pool in 1956, 1960 and 1964 was like family.

“I was with him until the end,” reflected Fraser today as she and Gallagher’s family gathered to cherish the amazing life of a swimming legend.

“He was a man who always played such a special part in my life.

“I made the journey down the highway last night, knowing very well it would be the last time I would see ‘Mr Gallagher’.

“It was a wonderful partnership we had and I would not have achieved the things I did without him.

“He taught me everything I know and we had a beautiful affection for each other. I would not have succeeded without him.

“He taught me self-discipline. If you missed a session, you doubled up the next day. That’s how it was. We have stayed in touch all these years. I feel I belong to his family and him to mine.

“If he didn’t know something, he would ask the top professionals in that field. If he wanted to know about the heart, he brought in Professor Edward Both, who invented the portable electrocardiograph machine. He trialled it on me and Jon Henricks. He always went to the top people.

“He was fair dinkum, a true Aussie.”


GOLDEN TRIO: Coach Harry Gallagher with Jon Henricks and Dawn Fraser. Photo Courtesy: Lanes Of Gold (Swimming NSW).

Gallagher with Fraser and Henricks captured the imagination of Australia’s sporting fraternity at the Melbourne Olympics in 1956, when the coach with the midas touch guided his star pupils to rare Olympic gold – the first time Australia had won both the coveted men’s and women’s 100m freestyle gold medal  double in the blue ribband event.

He also played significant roles in the careers of 1968 Olympic champions Mike Wenden and Lyn McClements as well as fellow Olympic gold medallists Lorraine Crapp and Brad Cooper and so many others.

Gallagher was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame at Fort Lauderdale in 1984 before receiving the Medal of the Order of Australia in 1986 for his services to swimming and a Life Membership of Swimming Australia last year.

But it was Gallagher’s discovery of Fraser and the re-discovery of Henricks that set him on a coaching path to greatness.

As a young aspiring coach in Sydney, Gallagher had been forced by circumstances to move his squad to the Balmain Baths.

There he quickly recognised the talent in this unruly, precocious and rebellious adolescent – who would go on to become one of the world’s greatest Olympians – “Our Dawn” the first person to win three consecutive individual events – adding her Melbourne triumph in the 100m freestyle in Rome in 1960 and again in Tokyo in 1964.


PRESSING TIMES: Dawn Fraser climbs into the press seats to find her coach Harry Gallagher in Melbourne in 1956. Photo Courtesy: Dawn Fraser Collection.

Australian Swimming’s History recalls that “After waiving the standard coaching fees, and exhibiting considerable patience and guile, Gallagher persuaded Dawn to join his squad who trained with discipline, dedication and regularity, features that had not previously characterized her swimming. By 1955, it paid off. Fraser won her first Australian Championship.

“Gallagher, always outfoxing his swimmers and other coaches, had won over Fraser.

“She worked hard, was rewarded with success and enjoyed a new lifestyle with social opportunities, different friends and a chance to travel. Gallagher took up leases in pools in Adelaide and then Melbourne, and Fraser followed her coach who she referred to as ‘her Professor Higgins’ (Howell and Howell, 1988: 156).

“Good coaching, intensive training and dedication paid off. An excellent Australian Championships was indicative of things to come at the Melbourne Olympic Games (1956). At the Games, Fraser, in a superb 100 metres freestyle event, out touched Crapp in a gripping race. Faith Leech completed an Australian trifecta. For the first time since Fanny Durack some 44 years earlier, an Australian won the prestigious 100 metres freestyle.”


ON THE PULSE: Harry Gallagher checks the pulse rate of his super star freestyler Dawn Fraser, Photo Courtesy: Lanes Of Gold (Swimming NSW).

Gallagher trained Fraser against male swimmers and set her up for a series of world records, Olympic and Commonwealth gold medals, and National and International acclaim.

Henricks swam in a tidal pool in Tuncurry before the family moved to Cabarita, and he trained at Drummoyne Baths.

Harry Gallagher spotted his talent as a freestyle swimmer early on and convinced his parents to give him the chance of coaching him. Henricks worked very hard, training twice a day, before and after school focusing on longer distances. Mediocre success did not match the effort and commitment. He missed selection for the 1952 Helsinki Olympic Games. As Gallagher summarized: ‘he was sick of swimming dumb miles in cold water and didn’t want to be a distance champion anyway’ (Gallagher, 1998: 176).

After consultation with Gallagher and the scientifically orientated Professor Frank Cotton, Henricks decided to resurrect his career and started to race over shorter distances.

Professor Cotton ascertained that physiologically Henricks was better suited to longer distances, but the psychology of the long mileage did not work for him. Sprint racing, combined with a program of tapering before major events, brought instant success.

In 1953 he set Australian records over 110 yards and 220 yards, accepted an invitation to compete at the Japanese National Championships where he won convincingly in front of large crowds, and he took out the 110 yard gold medal at the British Empire and Commonwealth Games at Vancouver (1954).

The crafty fox, Gallagher, added to psychological preparation for the Melbourne Games by taking both Henricks and Fraser to the top of the stands of the Melbourne Olympic Pool when all the swimmers were gone, as the deck lights lit the pool and as the cleaner slid his pole across the floor creating a ripple on the surface.

Dawn Fraser Harry Gallagher nd Jon Henricks

WARM RECEPTION: There was always a warm reception for coach Harry Gallagher and sprint stars Dawn Fraser and Jon Henricks caught here lapping up the Far North Queensland sunshine at Townsville on a  training camp. Photo Courtesy: Dawn Fraser Collection.

He describes a discussion that has gone down in Australian sporting history: ‘Tomorrow you’ll make history, and what you do may never be repeated, for no two swimmers from the same club with the same coach have ever won the Olympic sprint double in world record time. You’ll be talked about in a hundred years’ time … You’re going to win by leading all the way- sprinting flat out from gun to gold’ (Gallagher, 1998: 244).

Gallagher was right, but for Henricks it was a tight race. Henricks got his characteristic slow start, gathered momentum and came through the field, but Australian team captain John Devitt (who would win gold in Rome in 1960) led with 25 metres to swim. When they hit the wall Henricks won by a touch – four tenths of a second – to take the gold medal. It was a world record..and Harry’s kids had created history.

Gallagher’s passing comes just over two months after the death of the great Don Talbot, who passed away on the Gold Coast aged 87.

Swimming World will keep its readers posted on the details of a funeral service to celebrate the life and times of the late great, Harry Gallagher OAM who was awarded ASCTA Coaching ring number four in 1956 behind Forbes Carlile (No 1), Bill Holland (No 2) and Syd Grange (No 3).