John Konrads: star of Australia’s golden age of swimming dies at 78
John Konrads, one of Australia’s greatest swimmers during a golden age for the sport, has died.
Konrads dominated world swimming as a teenager in the late 1950s and early 1960s, winning the 1500m freestyle at the 1960 Rome Olympics among a haul of three medals at the Games.
Across a decorated career, Konrads set 26 individual freestyle world records between the 200m and 1500m events before he turned 15.
Konrads, who died on Sunday at the age of 78, was inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 1985.
“He was a proud Sport Australia Hall of Fame member with an extravagant sense of humour who will leave a lasting legacy around the world,” SAHOF chairman John Bertrand said.
Born in Riga, Latvia, Konrads emigrated with his parents Janis and Elza, grandmother, and sisters Eve and Ilsa in August 1944, initially to Germany.
Living in Germany until 1949, their application to immigrate to the United States was refused on account of the large size of the family.
They were relocated to a camp at Uranquinty, 15km south of Wagga Wagga in the Riverina region of NSW.
Konrads suffered polio as a child and his father thought swimming would be of therapeutic benefit.
He first caught the attention of famed Australian swim mentor Don Talbot, who was working as an assistant coach while teaching at a Sydney primary school Konrads and his sister Ilsa attended.
The Konrad siblings were at their record-breaking best in 1958, the year John won three gold medals at the Empire and Commonwealth Games in Cardiff. In 1959, John won every Australian freestyle title.
After retirement, Konrads entered the world of swim coaching before becoming the Australasian director of cosmetics giant L’Oreal.
He assisted with the bid for the 2000 Sydney Olympics, was a company director operating the Cook and Phillip Park Aquatic & Fitness Centre, as well as consulting in human resources.