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Australian Swimming Great, Terry Gathercole, Dies -- May 30, 2001

By Phillip Whitten

May 30. TERRY GATHERCOLE, one of the towering figures in Australian and world swimming, died of a heart attack in Canberra today at the age of 65. Gathercole was an Olympian, a world record-holder, an outstanding coach, an anti-drugs crusader and immediate past president of Australian Swimming.

Australian Swimming president John Devitt, a 100 meter freestyle gold medalist at the 1960 Rome Games, where Gathercole was his teammate, said the loss was immense."

"Terry was fiercely loyal, passionate and he believed that an even playing field was the only path that swimming world wide should follow," Devitt said in a statement. "He wanted and achieved the removal of drug-takers and cheats from our sport."

John Leonard, executive director of the American Swimming Coaches Association, called Gathercole "a great human being, a tremendous Australian patriot who cared deeply about world swimming, a man who was passionate about everything he did."

"Terry was one of the best recognized figures in world swimming. Everyone knew him and everyone liked him."

Kieren Perkins, a 1992 and '96 Olympic gold medalist,
said Australia had lost "an enormous wealth of knowledge and experience from the sport."

"The amazing thing is that everybody's known that he's been sick for a long time but it's still a great shock," Australian Associated Press quoted Perkins as saying.

"We still can't believe that he's been lost from the sport and the country. It's terrible."

Gathercole had long suffered from diabetes and a progressive muscular disease and walked with a cane due to osteoporosis. In 1986, he underwent heart bypass surgery.

Gathercole held the 200 meter breaststroke world record from 1958 to 1961 and was president of Australian Swimming from 1997 until last October -- a term that took in the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney.

He competed in the 1956 and 1960 Olympics, winning a relay silver medal.

Gathercole coached both Ian O'Brien (1964) and Beverly
Whitfield (1972) to Olympic gold in the same event in which he, himself, set the world record--the 200m breaststroke.

The renowned South African and Canadian coach, Cecil Colwin, was one of Gathercole's closest friends. "We go back to 1959, when he first came to South Africa with Aussie tour. Our friendship was cemented in 1967, when the two of us went on a Speedo coaching tour throughout Australia."

"The last time I saw Terry was in san Antonio in December of 1999. He was a hero -- a man who accomplished great deeds for Australian and world swimming."

"With Terry it was 'what you see is what you get.' He was an honest, tough, sincere guy. There was no subterfuge about him. He was no politician -- a rarity in international sport. We are going to miss him."

On a personal note: Terry was a good friend of mine, a
friendly, open, passionate man of immense personal integrity. Those of us who knew him will miss a wonderful friend. All of us who love the sport of swimming have lost a great advocate.