Passages: Two-Time Australian Olympic Medalist Allan Wood Passes Away At 79

Mens-4-x-200m-relay
WORLD BEATERS: Australia's 4x20m freestyle relay team, gold medallists and world record breakers at the 1962 Perth Commonwealth Games (L-R) Bob Windle, Murray Rose, Allan Wood and Peter Strahan. Photo Courtesy Commonwealth Games Australia Collection.

Passages: Two-Time Australian Olympic Medalist Allan Wood Passes Away At 79

Australia has lost one of its unsung heroes from the 1960 and 1964 Olympic swim teams with the passing this week of Commonwealth Games freestyle gold medallist Allan Wood.

Aged 79, Allan passed away peacefully at John Flynn Private Hospital on the Gold Coast after a long battle with cancer.

The boy born in Wollongong would go on to become one of the best swimmers in the world – racing alongside the likes of Australian Olympic champions Murray Rose, Bob Windle and John Konrads and legendary Americans Don Schollander and Roy Saari.

After representing in Rome in 1960 as a heat swimmer in the bronze medal winning 4x200m freestyle relay team, Wood would return to the Olympic arena four years later to win individual bronze medals in both the 400m and 1500m freestyle behind Schollander and Windle in Tokyo – dramatically improving his best times.

Wood had never swum faster than 4 minutes, 20 seconds in the 400m freestyle, but under master coach, the late Don Talbot he was able to drop his personal best to 4 minutes, 15.10 seconds, to claim that bronze behind Schollander and Frank Wiegand of East Germany.

In the 1500m freestyle, Wood posted a time of 17 minutes, 07.70 seconds, a 20-second drop in his personal best and in a race won by Windle in Olympic record time.

Among the swimmers who Allan defeated was Roy Saari, the world record holder in the event. Allan narrowly missed a third medal when he, Windle, Dickson and Doak finished fourth in the 4×200m freestyle relay.

Wood also won individual silver at the 1962 Commonwealth Games in Perth in the 440-yard freestyle behind Rose and bronze in the 1650-yard freestyle, behind Rose and Windle, winning gold in the 4×220-yard freestyle relay, alongside Windle, Rose and Anthony Strahan, setting a world record in the process.

Coach Talbot wrote an appraisal of Wood in his book “Talbot – Nothing But The Best” saying…. ““Alan was a boy that was overshadowed by the great swimmers of the time and who never (really) got the recognition he deserved. ..a gutsy swimmer….and I  think of Allan Wood as one of the best swimmers I ever had…who swam very well to win those bronze medals in both the 400 and 1500m freestyle.

“He had to wait until the last day of the swim program for the 1500m in Tokyo and the length of time proved just a little long for him to hold form…he had almost broken the world record for 800m in training just days before, telling me it felt easy.”

Alan Wood retired and went on to become a coach himself, relocating to the Gold Coast later in life where he spent time breeding horses in Currumbin Valley.

He will be remembered as a triple Olympic bronze medallist after the IOC awarded him with his 1960 relay bronze medal (as a heat swimmer) in 1984.

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