Australian Olympic Swimmer, Lifesaver And Platinum Level Swim Coach Gary Winram Passes Away Aged 85

Gary Winram SW
HUMBLE CHAMPION AND COACH: Gary Winram, who passed away peacefully on the Queensland Sunshine Coast yesterday will be remembered as a humble champion and coach on the Australian Swim Teams. Photo Courtesy: Sport The Library.

Australian Olympic Swimmer, Lifesaver And Platinum Coach Gary Winram Passes Away Aged 85

Australia has lost one of its greatest ever swim-surf stars, 1956 Olympian and 1958 Commonwealth Games medallist, Gary Winram, who has passed away peacefully on the Sunshine Coast. Gary was 85.

Winram went on to carve a successful career as one of the Australian swimming’ s most respected Olympic, Commonwealth Games and World Championship level coaches.

Gary Winram Olympedia

POOL STAR: Gary Winram was a dual international in pool and surf. Photo Courtesy: Olympedia.

Survived by his loyal and loving wife Jan, Winram had been presented with his prestigious Platinum Level Coaching Award in 2020 for his achievements with dual Olympian Elli Overton.

His Melbourne Olympic Games team mate Dawn Fraser had the unenviable task of informing members of that successful 1956 swim team that their popular team mate had passed away, describing him as one of Australian swimming and Australian surf lifesaving’s unsung and humblest of heroes.

“Gary was a humble champion in both pool and surf and a wonderful coach, respected by his athletes and his peers – not only a team mate of mine but a life long friend,” said Fraser, who comforted wife Jan in the day’s before and after Gary’s passing.

“I had spoken to Gary on my return last week from the Australian Swimming Championships in Adelaide and he was just so thrilled to hear about the record breaking feats of Ariarne Titmus and Zac Stubblety-Cook.

“He was a man who just loved swimming – someone who made a difference to his athletes and the coaches he has mentored.”

Winram had a distinguished career as a swimmer – combining his talents as a record-breaking middle distance and distance freestyler alongside the likes of Murray Rose, John Konrads and Jon Donohoe with his extraordinary feats in the pool and surf with North Bondi SLSC.

He smashed two Australian records in winning the NSW 1650 yards championship at North Sydney in 1955 – also breaking the 1500m record as well.

Gary Winram re size

NORTH BONDI LIFESAVER: Gary Winram revelled in the surf. Photo Courtesy: North Bondi SLSC.

Later that year at the Australian Championships in Adelaide, one of Australia’s greatest coaches, Forbes Carlile actually hypnotised Gary before the race and told him he was going to be chased by a shark before he won the race by 70 yards.

Carlile later saying that Winram’s win was due to his ability and hard training saying: The win was a result of his own and his coach Sep Prosser’s work. Hypnosis cannot make an athlete.

But in Gary’s case it gave him confidence and eliminated his pre-race nervous tension.”

After becoming the first swimmer to break 19 minutes in Australia in 1955 in the countdown to the Melbourne Games the following year, the former Randwick High School student went on to make the final in both the 400 and 1500m events won by the incomparable Rose.

Winram had the rare distinction of representing Australia both in the pool and in surf lifesaving – winning the Australian junior surf race crown with North Bondi in 1954 – before going on to race on the National team at the Queen’s Carnival and on a tour to South Africa – setting up a rare feat as dual international.

And in the 1958 Commonwealth Games in Cardiff, Winram won silver behind Konrads in the 1500m and bronze again behind Konrads over 400m.

In 1962 Gary began a career as a professional swim coach that would see him become one of Australia’s most respected and successful National Team coaches, building up his squads in Hornsby, Dural and Galston, setting up home at Normanhurst before settling with Jan in retirement on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.

Winram was the coach behind many State, National and International swimmers, arguably none better than dual Olympian, dual Commonwealth Games gold medallist and World Championship medallist Elli Overton, who credits Gary as the man who made her career the success that it was.

In 1994 Overton was named the NSW Swimmer of the Year and Winram the Coach of the Year.

Winram accepted the award after an emotional speech from Overton dedicating the award to “Mr Winram” – the coach who taught her to swim and took her to the top of Australian and International swimming.

“Everything I achieved in swimming I owe it to Gary, “ said Overton (speaking on behalf of so many of his students)  “he has meant everything to me and not just in the pool but also my life outside the pool.

“There is no doubt he has had the major influence on my career.”

Winram had coached Overton to two gold, two silver and two bronze medals at the ’94 Games in Victoria, Canada; bronze medals at both the World Long and Short Course Championships as well as the Commonwealth record in the 200IM.

Elli Overton 2000

REMEMBERING “MR WINRAM”: Elli Overton owes her swimming career to coach Gary Winram. Photo Courtesy: Hanson Media Collection.

Gary himself, as Dawn Fraser said was a humble champion and a humble coach, saying “It’s a great honour to receive this award and I must say it’s been a pleasure to coach Elli over the last 10 years. When it comes to dedication then Elli certainly epitomises the word.”

Winram also coached the likes of Graeme Carroll, Lara Devonport, Charlene Benzie, Steve McBrien and 2000 Olympian Cameron Delaney and so many more.

Carroll, who has himself built up a successful career in coaching after winning NSW and Australian championships in swimming, surf lifesaving and water polo, puts his successes down to Gary Winram, who he remembered this morning on pool deck at Woy Woy Aquatic Centre.

He addressed his squad, saying: “If it hadn’t been for Gary Winram I wouldn’t have been a swimmer, if it hadn’t been for Gary I wouldn’t have been a coach and I wouldn’t be standing here now talking to you guys about my coach and the difference he has made.”

Named as a coach on the Australian team to Japan in 1980, Gary made his first major team for the 1994 Commonwealth Games and World Championships in Rome – at the same time building up a successful swimming and teaching business on Sydney’s upper north shore.

Gary was a man who preferred to stay out of the limelight, yet reading through his feats in the pool and the surf, he was certainly a headline act, creating major newspaper stories for his feats in winning surf and belt races in between swimming sessions – believing his surf swimming aided his pool technique.

Something that his coaches didn’t always agree with and actually led to Gary splitting with coach Prosser and moving to Frank Guthrie in the lead up to the Melbourne Games.

“I am regarded as a phenomenon because I compete successfully in both stillwater and surf races,” recalled Winram in an interview at the time.

“For years…the experts have maintained that it is impossible to excel in both types of swimming but if I can do it I can’t see why other swimmers can’t.

“Back in the ‘30s Noel Ryan proved that it was possible. He was one of the first swimmers to represent Australia in an Olympic Games and proved himself to be one of our top surfers.

“To my way of thinking, there is no earthly reason why the two types should be incompatible.

“In fact I attribute my success as a stillwater swimmer to all my time spent in the surf. It’s a wonderful conditioner and surf swimming makes necessary the use of a style which is most pretty to watch.

“My Coach Sep Prosser and I finally parted over the same question.

“Early in 1956 when I was in full training for the Olympics I competed in a surf carnival against Sep’s advice. I won the surf race and of course there were headlines in the Sunday papers. Sep was pretty mad when he found out and I told him it was my way of relaxing…..and I coached myself for the next three weeks before joining Guthrie…and I continued to surf.”

Gary also remembered making that Melbourne Olympic team at 20 years of age.

“After I was selected we moved to the Olympic Village in Heidelberg and we trained there for three weeks,” recalled Winram in an interview with News Ltd in 2000.

“I was excited, I wouldn’t say nervous until I stood up on the blocks for the 400m freestyle. My knees were shaking so much just before the final I didn’t think I’d be able to stand up.

“The Olympics was the highlight of my swimming career…I had achieved the goal I had set for myself.”

gary winram

PLATINUM LEVEL PRESENTATION: Gary Winram (front) with above (L-R) Nancy Shaw, Tony Shaw, Lynn Elliott, John Rodgers, Dawn Fraser and Gary Toner. Photo Courtesy: Gary Toner.

A man who went on to make a difference in the world of swimming and a man who will be remembered as a humble swimming and surf champion and a Platinum Level coach who has left a special legacy in swimming and coaching in Australia.



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Grub (the nick name you gave me )❤️??
7 months ago

My coach for Lifey, my friend for life and my 2nd Dad .
RiIP Mr Winram,

Kirk Marks
7 months ago

Lovely words Hanso and Gary will be missed by so many of us. A true gentleman and dedicated coach. RIP Gary.

Laraine Buck
7 months ago

We the Buck family feel blessed having you in our journey “Gaza”. We certainly did have fun! Thank you.

Meghan Buck
7 months ago

Gary, you are a champion!! and always will be. A longtime family friend to us and also our 2nd dad you were always there when ever we needed you. It’s our turn to look after Jan and you will be forever missed in our hearts. Love Meghan, Elysse and Laraine Buck

Vanessa Haines
7 months ago

Thankyou Gary for being a great mentor & friend. You were a kind boss & believing in me made me a stronger coach & person.
Rest in peace Gary.

Steve McBrien
7 months ago

Beautiful story Ian thank you. Gary was such a father figure and inspiration to so many. He instilled a deep love of swimming in so many swimmers over the years and he will be sorely missed. He did so much more for his swimmers outside of swimming as well and was always making sure you had something else for life after sport. I owe him so much.

Matthew Pope
7 months ago
Reply to  Steve McBrien

Amen Steve. Well said mate. A lot of us owe him heaps. RIP Gary.

Steve blackman
7 months ago

Gary was a great mentor to me . I still have great respect for him and his rock. JA N. Who believe in all young swimmers to achieve their best. Remember all the times at Hornsby steve blackman.

7 months ago

Great tribute Hanso

Elli Overton
7 months ago

Such a wonderful coach. He stood by me and supported me through every decision I made in my swimming career. His belief in me, and my trust in him, is what got me to where I did in my career, I was so lucky to have him as a coach. I could not have asked for a more caring or better coach. Thanks for this tribute Hanso, it’s lovely! (I did go to 3 Olympics, but that’s ok :)… Mr Winram was so humble I didn’t even know some of those amazing feats! Sending love to Jan, his lovely “other half.”

Mandy Hector
7 months ago
Reply to  Elli Overton

❤ ?

Paul Hardman
7 months ago

Gary was a wonderful coach for NSW and Australia, a leader in the field of turning up at State Championships every year with a newly crafted champion ready to represent the ranks of Hornsby Swimming club and later Galston Swim Club.

Success came to him through the swimmers he produced, endlessly. Ian Hanson is right when he says he never sought the limelight but he did continue to shape the future for so many promising swimmers and left a legacy for young aspiring coaches to follow that showed consistency of application works and that you don’t always need the best facilities in the world to create the worlds best swimmers.

Always in attendance at the local after competition, Gary was an excellent sounding board for all coaches and belonged to an era of great NSW coaches that included Don Talbot, Forbes and Ursula Carlile, Terry Buck, Ruth Everess, Doug Frost, Greg Salter, Alan Thompson and Tony Shaw.
Thanks Gary for everything you have given.
A truly great coach.

Paul Hardman

Mandy Hector
7 months ago
Reply to  Paul Hardman


7 months ago

A beautiful and inspirational person, such a great swim coach, true gentleman and lovely neighbour, you will be sadly missed. Rest In Peace!

Peter Dyring
7 months ago

G’day Hanso, Sincere thanks for the article on Gary. He will be sadly missed by Julie & I. Naturally, our love & best go to Jan m’darlin.

Jan & Gary Winram with Julie @ Cooroy 17 April 2022.JPG
7 months ago

One of the greats
Great person, great coach!
Awesome summary Hanso of a highly successful former swimmer and coach
Gary was always willing to share and support coaches and swimmers right across Australia
Best Wishes to his family and former swimmers ❤️

Peter Dyring
7 months ago

A collage of photos featuring Gaza with some of his many friends and colleagues, especially from the Australian Swimming & Olympic fields. Apologies to those who did not make the cut, but limited space available. Also my apologies to Daza Kerrigan from THE CASTLE ……… Another Iconic, laconic and much loved Aussie Legend!

1 Gary WINRAM x pd-.jpg
Verity Greaves
7 months ago

My coach in the 1970’s, my children’s coach in the 1990’s and then to become, along with his gorgeous wife Jan, a close life long friend who ended every phone call with “I love you”.
Chris and I loved you and Jan, too, Gary.
I’m very sad we can’t talk any more, but I will keep Jan on the phone….. ????