PASSAGES: Australian Olympian Adam Lucas Pays A Special Tribute To His Celebrated Coach Grant Stoelwinder

West Coast Relay 2008 Eamon Sullivan, Bobby Jovanovich, Grat Stoelwinder, Adam Lucas and Tomasso D'Orsogna wth Mel Tantrum.
TOAST OF THE WEST COAST: Coach Grant Stoelwinder (centre) with West Coach 4x100m freestyle relay team - (L-R) Eamon Sullivan, Bobby Jovanovich, Adam Lucas and Tommaso D'Orsogna with Assistant Coach Mel Tantrum at the 2008 Olympic Trials. Photo Courtesy: West Coast Swimming.

OBITUARY: Australian Olympian Adam Lucas Pays A Special Tribute To His Celebrated Coach Grant Stoelwinder

Australia’s 2004 Athens Olympic medley swimmer Adam Lucas summed up his coach Grant Stoelwinder perfectly when the Western Australian swimming community gave the coach they all called “Stolly” the best possible send off in Perth, Western Australia – a fun-filled farewell befitting the man.

A send off he so richly deserved and a day that saw over 500 people from around WA, inter-state and from overseas celebrate an amazing life.


LIFE’S A BALL AT THE OLYMPICS: Grant Stoelwinder takes time out on the famous tennis ball couch during the 2012 London Olympics. . Photo Courtesy: Grant Stoelwinder Collection.

One of Australia’s most respected Olympic swim coaches, Stoelwinder passed away aged just 52 on January 29 surrounded by family, mum Cheryl and sisters Karen and Renea, partner Leon and including long-standing assistant Mel Tantrum after battling a seven-year struggle with neurological degenerative dementia.

Stoelwinder was the man behind Eamon Sullivan’s rise as the fastest swimmer in the world in 2008 and swimmers like Lucas, Libby Trickett, Geoff Huegill, Todd Pearson, Matt Abood, Mel Mitchell, Andrew Lauterstein, Jim Piper, Garth Kates, Tommaso Dorsogna, Bobby Jovanovich, Amy Lucas, Jeremy McClure and triathlete Peter Robertson – coach “Stolly” helping them all reach their dreams and so many more their potential doing it “the Stolly way.”

Over his seven-year health battle, his family, swimmers, fellow coaches and friends would become regular visitors as they relished the time they had left with the man they all loved.

The coach who took them to their greatest heights and who made it a fun ride – a man they respected and a man they trained hard under and raced for, who they laughed with, celebrated with and often cried with.

Lucas spoke of his amazing life long friendship of his coach when he delivered his passionate eulogy at Karrakatta Chapels on behalf of every swimmer lucky enough to be part of “Team Stolly” before gathering at North Cottesloe Surf Club to celebrate his life.

He remembers being his only student on a chilly winter’s morning as Stoelwinder began his first steps into the challenging world of senior coaching which would eventually elevate him to international acclaim and onto the Olympic pool deck.


A GRADERS: Champion West Coast Swim Team with coaches Grant Stoelwinder (far left middle row) and Mel Tantrum (far left front row). Photo Courtesy: West Coast Swim Team.

Lucas spoke on behalf of all his swimmers, many seated in front of him at the service, next to coaches and staff, all with so many memories of their days with Stolly.

“Today we farewell not only an absolute legend of the sport, but we farewell a great person adored by all that knew him,” said Lucas, who was club captain of the Perth-based West Coast Swimming Club from 2001 to 2008 and who swam under “Stolly” from the age of 12 years until the day he hung up his Speedos.

“For 12 years, I basically spent everyday apart from Sundays with you, after each session I made sure I thanked you for every session and for the effort you put in,” Lucas told the crowd.

“I have one final thank you, thank you for your friendship and our journey together.

“When my boys are older, I can’t wait to tell them stories about what a fantastic coach and friend you were. It broke all of our hearts seeing your health deteriorate over the last seven years. But now your mind is finally at peace.”

“To Cheryl, Renea, Karen, Leon, Mel and Tully, on behalf of the swimming community we extend our deepest condolences, and we are here today to honour the many memories and legacy Stolly has left us.”

Grant Stoelwinder was a talented swimmer, a National gold medallist himself, who was coached by Lyn McKenzie – who as Lyn McClements won Olympic gold in the 100m butterfly in Mexico in 1968.

His love of swimming led him into coaching, plying his trade in Halifax in Canada to advance his coaching experience before returning to WA.


CAP IN HAND: Grant Stoelwinder never too proud to ask for a helping hand. Photo Courtesy: Grant Stoelwinder Collection.

Grant was appointed assistant coach to Lyn McKenzie at his old club West Coast – a powerhouse of Western Australian swimming.

In 1996, Lyn announced her retirement from Senior coaching, and the young Grant Stoelwinder took over  the role as Head Coach of West Coast Swimming Club in his early 20s.

Those early years of Stolly’s senior coaching career had its challenges, with retirements and movements to other clubs, the numbers at West Coast started to dwindle.

There was a morning in the winter of 1997, when Adam Lucas arrived for training and headed out to the eight-lane outdoor pool at the Superdrome (complex) which would later become Challenge Stadium.

“I remember Stolly arriving in his blue West Coast trench coat at 5.30am and he started to write up the session on the whiteboard,” said Lucas.

“It was 5.35am and I was the only one there; Stolly kept writing on the whiteboard continuing to look up to see which other swimmers were coming through the door.

“It was 5.40am and still no other swimmers came.

“It was his passion and his dream to be a successful swim coach but his squad was falling apart day by day.

“I went up to Stolly and gave him a smile and said “well coach…looks like it just you and me this morning!”

Stolly was under the pump, with the low numbers in his squad his High Performance lane space at Challenge Stadium was being taken away.

Stolly and Mel

WEST COAST DYNAMIC DUO: West Coast’s successful coaching teamGrant Stoelwinder and Mel Tantrum. Photo Courtesy: Grant Stoelwinder Collection.

West Coast had finished last in the A grade Pennant in [1997] and were dropped to the B Grade Division.

As a young coach this was a make-or-break point in his career – he had the drive and passion and belief he could be a successful coach.

Grant accepted the challenge and stuck to his guns and followed his passion. He would eventually take his effort and performance in coaching to another level.

Rather than see other coaches as competitors, Stolly wanted to learn off them, and also share his experiences and thoughts on various aspects of coaching.

Senior coaches from WA such as Lester Watkins from Southside took Stolly under their wing and mentored him which he was incredibly grateful for.

Stolly’s increased effort and determination started to pay dividends with improvements in the performance of his swimmers. He would then lead West Coast Swimming Club to the B Grade Premiership and then have the club back in the A Grade Premiership Division.

The rise of Stolly had begun, and the Western Australian Swimming Community was witnessing the development of one of the greatest Western Australian coaches of all time and a future Australian Olympic Coach.

In addition to his commitment to coaching and seeking knowledge, what made Stolly such a great coach was the atmosphere he created at training sessions.

His cheeky and fun-loving attitude towards life was applied at his training sessions and the swimmers loved it.

“For all the West Coast swimmers here today, who can forget those Saturday morning sessions that Stolly created, that was something special,” said Lucas.

stolly and eamon

ON TOP OF THE WORLD: Coach Grant Stoelwinder with a super charged Eamon Sullivan after setting a new world record in the 50m freestyle. Photo Courtesy: Grant Stoelwinder Collection.

“The morning would start with Stolly in his Daewoo Lanos sedan charging into the Challenge Stadium car park with Ministry of Sound pumping on his Lanos speakers.

“Holding his big coffee cup, he stood on the landing at the indoor 50m pool at Challenge – it was his domain.

“Down on the pool deck the Ministry of Sound CD was now heard through the Stadium sound system and the atmosphere was pumping at 6am on a Saturday morning.

“Stolly was always amped for a good Saturday morning session that became legendary – there was the main set 4×50 race pace x 8, which was then modified later for the sprinters cause they couldn’t handle the heat in the kitchen.

“At the end of the session, Stolly would lead the charge and get his swimmers jumping off the 10m diving tower for a bit of fun.”

Stolly had perfected the balance of being hard as a coach to get the results out of his swimmers, but he knew swimming was about enjoyment first, performance second. The more enjoyment a swimmer had at training, led to that swimmer training more often, and ultimately led to better performances.

He wasn’t just about high-performance swimming, he wanted everyone to improve, even after his senior swimmers had finished their session, there would be Stolly moving over to age and junior swimmers working on their technique to try help them improve.

The image of Stolly demonstrating the catch to a swimmer with the high elbow, elbow above the wrist, and wrist above the fingers, became a trademark of Stolly’s identity around pool deck.

Stolly coached surf lifesavers, water polo players, triathletes and even NBA legend Luc Longley who wanted the best coach to improve his swimming so he could swim to Rottnest. Stolly cared about all his athletes, he was more than a coach to so many of us. Surf Ironman Brendon Sarson has memories of Stolly coming down to the beach to watch him in surf lifesaving carnivals in his free time and working with three-time World Champion triathlete, two-time Sydney and Athens Olympian Peter Robertson.


CLASS OF 2004: Athens Olympians (L-R) Peter Robertson (triathlon), Adam Lucas, Todd Pearson and Eamon Sullivan (swimming) with coach Grant Stoelwinder. Photo Courtesy: Grant Stoelwinder Collection.

“From that moment on in 1997 when Stolly was absolutely under the pump, his commitment, determination and positive attitude had turned West Coast swimming club around,” said Lucas.

After parents saw the effort that Stolly was putting into his coaching and swimming program, they wanted their children swimming with Stolly at West Coast.

The squad numbers started rising and Stolly was appointing his coaching lieutenants to assist him with the rise.

This is when Mel Tantrum came on board and the very successful Head Coach/Assistant Coach partnership was formed.

After dropping to the B Grade Division, the very next year Stolly guided West Coast back with the B Grade Premiership, and West Coast was elevated back in the A Grade. West Coast finished third in the A Grade in 1999, then second in 2000, then went on to win eight straight A Grade Premierships in a row creating the Stoelwinder dynasty.

Stolly had led West Coast back to become a force in Western Australian swimming and then this led to the emergence of West Coast on the National level at Age and Open Championships.

In 2000 Dual Olympic Gold Medallist Todd Pearson returned back to Western Australia from his successful career AIS in Canberra which saw him and fellow WA legend Bill Kirby join Ian Thorpe and Michael Klim in Australia’s gold medal winning 4x200m freestyle relay team at the Sydney 2000 Olympics.

“Todd and Stolly had started dialogue on building a specialist sprint program under Stolly in Perth, and Todd was happy with Stolly’s plan and moved to join West Coast,” said Lucas.

“With Stolly having a thirst for knowledge, an open mind, and Stolly unafraid of trying unconventional methods in swimming, he was able to extract out of Todd every bit of swimming IP Todd had accumulated over his years at the AIS, and Stolly built up his new successful sprint program at West Coast.

“Even with the arrival of ‘Hollywood’ Pearson brought some more professionalism to the squad, Stolly still maintaining his cheeky and fun personality.

“While maintaining the fun at training, in the lead-up to the 2004 Athens Olympic Trials, Stolly did absolutely everything he could to prepare for that meet.


TOURING TEAM: Geoff Huegill, Matt Abood, Eamon Sullivan, Grant Stoelwinder and Andrew Lauterstein with Sports Science guru Jess Corones in Europe. Photo Courtesy: Grant Stoelwinder Collection.

“With Mel by his side he utilised every resource that was made available to him.

“He ensured that the WAIS support staff of strength and conditioning, bio mechanists, psychologists, specialist stroke coaches, and physiotherapists and massage therapists were all doing everything they could to get his athletes in the best possible shape to perform at those trials.”

Stolly’s sheer determination, his commitment and extra effort he applied to coaching had paid off, he had his breakout meet and year in 2004, and put three swimmers, Todd Pearson, Eamon Sullivan and Adam Lucas on the Australian Olympic team for Athens; also Peter Robertson the three-time world champion triathlete on the same Olympic team and with Mel guided Katrina Porter and Diane Saunders onto the Athens Paralympic team.

Stolly had officially arrived on the National open scene and was fearless in his pursuit to try innovative methods of training, particularly in his sprint program.

He ended up developing such a good sprint program in Western Australia, it actually caught him by surprise in what he was unleashing with Sullivan.

Stolly’s bold approach of less quantity, more quality in training, and his determination and commitment was a winning recipe.

He was about continually improving his athletes performance and he coached Eamon to become the fastest man on earth with Eamon breaking Alexander Popov’s 50m world record, a world record which had stood for eight years and Eamon also went on to also break the 100m world record twice in 2008.

Stolly had become an Australia sprint coaching legend.

The New South Wales Institute of Sport was closely monitoring this talent of a coach out of Western Australia and subsequently recruited Stolly to move to Sydney as a NSWIS coach and setup Stolly’s “Super sprint” squad.

IMG_2116 2

WORLD BEATERS: Grant Stoelwinder and Olympic golden girl Libby Trickett – a successful partnership with NSWIS. Photo Courtesy: Grant Stoelwinder Collection.

Grant continued his success in Sydney and coached Libby Trickett to a world record and played a crucial part in the incredible comeback by Geoff Huegill.

Stolly orchestrated getting Skippy back into shape and winning a gold medal at the 2010 Commonwealth Games.

In a stellar career Grant was selected as an Australian coach on the 2005 World Championship Team; 2006 Commonwealth Games; 2006 Pan Pacific Championships; 2006 World Short Course; 2007 World Championships; 2008 Beijing Olympics Games; 2009 World Championships; 2010 Commonwealth Games and 2011 World Championships and 2012 London Olympics.

He was awarded the Western Australian Coach of the Year every year from 2004 to 2008, and in 2008 was Inducted into the Swimming Western Australia’s Hall of Fame.

Stolly loved travelling and exploring new places. Swimming provided him with the avenue to explore the world.

A world he certainly made a better place throughout those fun-filled 52 years that Grant Stoelwinder devoted to his family, his friends, his swimmers, fellow coaches and representing his country.

A man who left an extraordinary legacy for the Australian and particularly the Western Australian swimming communities.


DELHI DAYS ONE: Australia’s swimming coaching team for the 2010 Commonwealth Games (L-R) Grant Stoelwinder, Denis Cotterell, Brian Stehr, Rohan Taylor, Glenn Baker, Matt Brown, Brendan Keogh (behind), Michael Bohl, Mick Palfrey, Head Coach Leigh Nugent (behind), Stephan Widmer and John Fowlie. Grant Stoelwinder Collection.


Delhi 2010 Rohan Taylor Matt Brown Stolly and Glenn Baker

DELHI DAYS TWO: Rohan Taylor, Matt Brown, Grant Stoelwinder, Glenn Baker. Photo Courtesy: Grant Stoelwinder Collection.

GRANT STOELWINDER ( 28.08.1970 – 29.01.2023)

And the final words from Adam Lucas:

Stolly you have had an impact on so many of our lives like you wouldn’t believe. Rest In Peace Coach.

Thanks for the Memories….

Stolly in Water

Notify of

Welcome to our community. We invite you to join our discussion. Our community guidelines are simple: be respectful and constructive, keep on topic, and support your fellow commenters. Commenting signifies that you agree to our Terms of Use

1 Comment
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Carolyn Carolyn Mcdonald
Carolyn Carolyn Mcdonald
1 year ago

Great coach beautiful person

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x