Aussie Olympic Champion Duncan Armstrong recovering From Emergency Heart Surgery

Vikings Luch Olympians and board
HEART OF GOLD: Duncan Armstrong with fellow Olympians Jon Sieben, coach Laurie Lawrence, Brooke Hanson and Justin Lemberg at a recent fund raiser for his beloved Currumbin Vikings Surf Club. Photo: Stephen Holland

Aussie Olympic Champion Duncan Armstrong recovering From Emergency Heart Surgery

Australian Olympic swimming golden boy from Seoul, Duncan Armstrong is recovering in a Brisbane hospital tonight after undergoing emergency heart by-pass surgery.

The Sydney’s Daily Telegraph reported that “Armstrong’s relieved inner circle have been told that the 1988 Olympic champion in the 200m freestyle is ‘doing fine’ but isn’t allowed any visitors until doctors deem it’s safe to move him out of the Intensive Care Unit.”

Armstrong’s fellow Olympic gold medallist, 200m butterfly champion in Los Angeles in ’84, Jon Sieben confirmed the news late tonight Australian time, saying the swimming community would get right behind his mate and former training partner on his road to recovery.

Sieben, who suffered a heart scare himself and made a full recovery after having had a stent inserted in his heart 18 months ago, joined his fellow LA Olympians Justin Lemberg and Glen Buchanan along with their coach Laurie Lawrence on a group text exchange in support of Armstrong.

“It certainly came as a shock to us all and we only found out about Duncan’s episode earlier today,” said Townsville-based Sieben.

“One thing about Duncan is he’s a fighter and all of us are right behind him and we all send our best wishes to Dunc and his family.

“We will get him up here to Townsville – that’s what he needs – some good weather – that’ll help him on the road to recovery.”

The Telegraph’s chief Olympic and swimming writer Julian Linden broke the news exclusively that Armstrong had suffered a heart east tack earlier in the week and was in hospital, writing:


ALL HEART: Olympic champion Duncan Armstrong, recovering from heart surgery in a Brisbane Hospital. A great supporter of Australian charities. Photo Courtesy: Russ McPhedran.

“It’s understood Armstrong suffered a cardiac arrest without warning in Brisbane on Tuesday and was rushed straight to hospital where surgeons immediately operated on him. Only his family and closest friends were notified because the news came as such a major surprise to everyone who knows him as he’s kept himself healthy and is still active in the swimming community.

“The 52-year-old, whose stunning upset victory in the 200 metres freestyle at the 1988 Seoul Olympics remains etched in Australian sporting folklore, remains in intensive care but is expected to make a full recovery.

“His relieved inner circle have been told that Armstrong is ‘doing fine’ but isn’t allowed any visitors until doctors deem it’s safe to move him out of the Intensive Care Unit.

“It’s understood Armstrong suffered a cardiac arrest without warning in Brisbane on Tuesday and was rushed straight to hospital where surgeons immediately operated on him.”

Armstrong holds a special place in the annals of Australia’s celebrated Olympic history – winning gold and silver in Seoul in 1988 four years after fellow  Lawrence coached teenager Seine’s come-from-behind gold medal in the 200m butterfly, it was Armstrong’s turn to carve a slice of his own Olympic history, four years later.

Like his mate Jonno, Armstrong produced the swim of his life to also beat a world class field, including Matt Biondi to win Olympic gold in the 200m freestyle and narrowly take silver in the 400 in Seoul in 1988.

It caused a huge stir in the US as Armstrong rode the wash of Biondi for the first part of the race, only to overtaken Biondi in a surging finish.

Armstrong too would go onto swim in Australia’s 4x200m freestyle in Barcelona – suffering an embarrassing disqualification.

A role as a swimming commentator beckoned the well spoken Armstrong who also appeared in a series on TV commercials in a transition into working life and is now a Community Engagement manager with Telstra.

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MENTOR TO MANY: Duncan Armstrong with members of the Australian M:LC Flippers Squad at the Gold Coast Aquatic Centre. Photo Courtesy: Swimming Australia.

Armstrong recently hosted the launch of the Swimming Australia MLC Flippers program supporting  the next generation of Australian swimmers at the Gold Coast Aquatic Centre.

He was as large as life and played a key mentoring role as well as introducing the squad on a virtual platform and spoke to the Queensland members of the group.

Armstrong also joined coach Lawrence at Lemberg’s Valley pool for the launch of Lawrence’s book “Going for Gold” re-enacting the famous headlock scene (featuring Channel 10 reporter Stephen Quartermain) when he won the Seoul gold in the 200m freestyle against all the odds.

The swimming great also joined fellow Olympians and good mates Sieben and Lemberg as well as Brooke Hanson and Lawrence at a 100th Year Celebration fundraiser for his beloved Currumbin Vikings Surf Club on the Queensland Gold Coast on the eve of the Covid-19 lockdown.

Always willing to put his hand up to help others and in charity work, Armstrong looked fit enough to swim the 200 and 400m again.

He was also front and centre at the moving memorial service after the passing of good friend, former swimmer and coach Ian Findlay, who passed away earlier this year after a long illness – leading a who’s who of Queensland and Australian swimmers and coaches who paid their respects to the popular “Finny.”

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GOLDEN PARTNERSHIP: Duncan Armstrong and Laurie Lawrence Photo Courtesy: Hanson Media

Lawrence wrote in his book: “AUSTRALIA has developed a habit of throwing up unlikely champions in the swimming pool, and the story of Rockhampton-born Duncan Armstrong at Seoul in 1988 is a fairytale story that still holds water over three decades later. He arrived at those Olympic Games ranked 46th in the world in the 200 metres freestyle, yet qualified fourth for the final – taking on three world champions, either present or past, in USA’s Matt Biondi, Poland’s Artur Wojdat and West Germany’s Michael Gross, all giant figures of swimming. The then 20-year-old Armstrong’s relentless attitude to training had prepared him to beat the odds, which he did – winning the gold medal in world record time. Duncan Armstrong in a word – Relentless!

He also picked up the silver medal in the 400 metres freestyle at Seoul, flying home but narrowly beaten by East Germany’s Uwe Dassler.

 The pair, and third-placed Wojdat, all broke the previous world record. After spending two years at the University of Florida, Armstrong had to withdraw from the 1990 Commonwealth Games after contracting glandular fever but competed at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

After Armstrong’s golden swim in Seoul, members of the Australian team hung a banner from the Aussie Village HQ balcony saying: “We’d love to have a beer with Duncan…’cause Duncan’s ‘our’ mate” after a popular Australian song of the 80s.”

And knowing Armstrong he’ll fight in his recovery with all the tenacity that won him that Olympic gold….Australians cheering him all the way  in his latest battle.

Duncan Armstrong – Relentless!

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