Laurie Lawrence is an Australian swimming legend, not for what he did in the water but for what he has done out of it.
When the Australian swimming team was at its peak, Laurie was one of its key coaches and his swimmers have won more than 10 Olympic Gold Medals and 23 World Records.
He is a member of the Sport Australia Hall of Fame and received an Australian Sports Medal in 2000.
He was also a member of the Wallabies, Australia’s national rugby union team, in 1964 although he didn’t play in any tests.
His passion for the sport began in the 1950s when his father manager the Tobruk Pool in Townsville, where some of the greats of Australian swimming completed a lot of their training pre-Olympics.
He was inspired by the likes of Dawn Fraser and Murray Rose… he still talks about the last night of a swimming carnival before the 1956 Olympics when 13 world records were broken.
Health reasons prevented him from being a great swimmer himself, but his love of the sport would take to all sorts of strange places. When he decided he was going to be a coach, he took himself on a study tour to the US where he spent time with the great Mark Spitz’s coach.
His first charge was Stephen Holland in 1972 who won a World Championship and set a world record in the first year of their partnership.
His direct coaching of swimmers went cover Olympic Games all the way up to 1992, and from there he took on a mentoring role with the brief to ‘unite, inspire, motivate and relax the entire team’ for four Olympics up to and including Beijing in 2008
Outside of competition he runs his own swim school with his family, and in 1988 launched the Kids Alive Drowning Prevention Campaign to combat the problem of accidental death by drowning in the under-five age group.
This program has both government and community support and runs nationally. As part of this program he has researched, documented and developed a program which is now internationally recognised.