Commonwealth Games Australia joins the international swimming and broader Australian sporting community in mourning the passing of legendary swimming coach Don Talbot AO OBE, at the age of 87.
Talbot was a significant figure in Australian swimming and sport generally, serving on six Commonwealth Games teams – three as head coach and three as coach.
He will be remembered for his uncompromising style, mastery of strategy and motivation, and the belief that given our proximity to water, Australians should be the number one swimming nation in the world.
He commenced his Commonwealth Games involvement as a coach on the 1962 team in Perth and served the same role at the Games in Kingston in 1966 and Edinburgh in 1970.
After a period with Canadian Swimming, he returned to Australia in 1989 to take up the Head Coach role with Swimming Australia and led the Australian teams at the Auckland (1990), Victoria (1994) and Kuala Lumpur (1998) Games.
Talbot served similar roles on the Australian team at seven Olympic Games, from 1964 in Tokyo to Montreal in 1976, and then from Barcelona in 1992 to Atlanta in 1996 and then the home Games in Sydney in 2000.
He was appointed as inaugural director of the Australian Institute of Sport in 1980 – a transformational time for Australian Olympic and Commonwealth Games sports.
Talbot steered Australia through a revitalised period of Australian swimming in the lead up to and during the Sydney Olympic Games where Australia returned to a dominant position in world swimming – a position it last enjoyed in the 1960s.
Steering Australia to major successes at Olympic, world championships and Commonwealth Games, Talbot’s proudest moment came when Australia was crowned number one on the gold medal count ahead of the USA at the 2001 world championships in Japan, achieving a feat not accomplished since the 1956 Melbourne Olympics.
Swimmers coach by Talbot to Olympic and Commonwealth Games glory included siblings John and Ilsa Konrads. The two youngsters from Latvia, who could not swim when they came to Australia, went on to represent Australia at the Olympic and Commonwealth Games, set world records. John won Olympic and Commonwealth Games gold and Ilsa Commonwealth gold medals.
Others under Talbot’s tutelage included Gail Neall and Bev Whitfield, Kevin Berry, Ian O’Brien, Neville Hayes, Bob Windle and Brad Cooper who collectively he guided to either Commonwealth Games and/or Olympic success.
In 1981, Talbot was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for his service to sport and an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in 2007. Talbot was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1979 and the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 1990.
Talbot and then-wife Jan Cameron (who passed away in 2018), are survived by their son Scott Talbot-Cameron, who himself represented New Zealand at the Commonwealth and Olympic Games.
“To readers who have arrived at this point with me, the final touching of the wall, I can only hope that you may have enjoyed learning of this life’s journey through 50 years of swimming as much as I have enjoyed living it.”
Don Talbot’s final words in his autobiography – Talbot, Nothing But The Best, with Ian Heads and Kevin Berry