Aquatics and Commercial

Legendary swim coach Don Talbot passes away just before AIS anniversary

February 9, 2021

Inaugural Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) director and swimming coach legend, Don Talbot passed away in November.

This was barely two months before the AIS celebrated its 40th anniversary on Australia Day 2021, with AIS CEO Peter Conde saying it was with great sadness that Talbot wasn’t there.

Conde says that Talbot put athletes and coaches at the forefront, setting the groundwork to re-establish Australia as a sporting strength in the world.

“A world-class swim coach in his own right, Don personally recruited the coaches to lead eight foundation sports at the AIS and 152 inaugural scholarship athletes,” says Conde.

“Now the AIS has facilities and connections around the country, it is part of a National Institute Network that supports more than 2200 athletes. We have the utmost respect for what Don achieved in our history, but we also acknowledge the influence his work still has on inspiring our future.”

Australian Sports Commission (ASC) chair John Wylie says that Talbot was instrumental in establishing a high-performance culture for Australian sport, stepping into the newly formed director role at the AIS.

“Don’s foresight, knowledge and sheer tenacity were essential in those formative years. As the inaugural AIS director he was a leader of sporting pioneers, helping to deliver a world-leading AIS that became the blueprint of many international sporting systems we see today.”

At the opening in 1981, Talbot said: “It may be in the future that the concept of an Institute of Sport has to be decentralised throughout Australia to provide for everybody. I think when that comes, Australia is well on the way to being a major sporting nation.”

Champion coach

Don Talbot was one of Australia’s greatest swim coaches, inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1979. He began his career coaching siblings John and Ilsa Konrads in the 1950s, guiding them both to set world records in the 400, 800 and 1500m freestyle events.

In the lead up to the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games, Talbot was named the head of the Australian men’s team, leading the likes of Ian O’Brien, Bob Windle, Beverley Whitfield and Gail Neall to Olympic gold medal success. He held the position from 1964 to 1972, combining for 14 medals over the three Olympic cycles.

After a short stint coaching overseas in Canada, he returned to Australia to take up the position of inaugural AIS Director in 1981. The AIS provided the opportunity for elite Australian coaches to be employed for the first time, and Talbot set out to appoint the best coaches he could find.

After three years at the AIS, and another stint coaching overseas, he returned to swimming as head coach of the Australian National Swim Team in 1989. His no-nonsense style led Australia back to the top of world swimming with strong results at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, and overtaking swimming powerhouse USA to top the gold medal tally at the 2001 World Swimming Championships.

CAPTION: Don Talbot, AO


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