Inaugural Australian Institute of Sport director and legendary swimming coach Don Talbot has died at 87.
Australian Sports Commission chair John Wylie paid tribute to Mr Talbot, saying he was instrumental in establishing a high-performance culture for Australian sport, stepping into the newly formed director role when the AIS was first established in Canberra almost 40 years ago.
“Don’s foresight, knowledge and sheer tenacity were essential in those formative years,” Mr Wylie said. “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.”
AIS CEO Peter Conde said Mr Talbot championed athletes and coaches, 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,” Mr Conde said.
“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.
“The AIS celebrates its 40th anniversary in January next year, and it is with great sadness that Don won’t be around to help us acknowledge the indelible legacy that he started back in 1981.”
Mr Talbot was first and foremost one of Australia’s greatest swim coaches. He was 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 1500-metre freestyle events
In the lead up to the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games, Mr 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, Mr Talbot returned to Australia to take up the position of inaugural AIS Director.
Officially opening in Bruce on 26 January 1981, the AIS provided the opportunity for elite Australian coaches to be employed for the first time, and Mr 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 lead Australia back to the top of World Swimming with strong results at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, and overtaking swimming powerhouse US to top the gold medal tally at the 2001 World Swimming Championships.