Australia’s 1960 Olympic Champ John Konrads Dies At 78

Olympic gold medalist John Konrads has died at the age of 78. Konrads was an Australian distance swimmer who won the Olympic 1500 free in 1960.

Konrads was born in Latvia in 1942. With their home nation occupied first by Germany during World War II, and later by the Soviet Union after the war, the Konrads family emigrated, first staying in Germany. Per The Guardianthe family’s application to move to the United States was refused due to the large size of the Konrads family. The Konrads were eventually able to move to Australia in 1949.

John Konrads was hospitalized with polio as a child, and took up swimming as a therapeutic way to regain his strength.

Konrads would go on to join the ranks of Australian swimming legend. By 1956 (at age 14), Konrads was selected to the Australian Olympic team as a reserve, though he didn’t actually compete in the Olympics that year.

A freestyle talent with incredible range, Konrads once broke six world records in the span of eight days in 1958. He broke records in the 200-meter, 400-meter, and 800-meter freestyle, along with the 220-yard, 440-yard, and 800-yard freestyles.

At the 1960 Olympics in Rome, Konrads won the 1500 freestyle after setting the world record at the Australian Championships. He also took home bronze in the 400 freestyle and bronze as part of Australia’s 4×200 freestyle relay.

Konrads later swam for the University of Southern California in the United States. He made the Australian Olympic team again in 1964 as a member of the 4×200 free relay team. After retiring from swimming, Konrads became a swim coach, and later the Australasian director of cosmetics company L’Oreal. Konrads remained an influential swimming figure for decades, helping secure Australia’s bid to host the 2000 Olympics, and publicly speaking about his struggles with bipolar disorder in hopes of raising awareness across Australia.

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olde coach
3 months ago

He was a true inspiration and great role model for me as a young aspiring swimmer

3 months ago

A Legend, RIP Jon, the swim team in heaven just got better.

3 months ago

Gosh he died still young at 78..RIP.. famous swimming siblings with Ilsa.. is she still around too?

Corn Pop
3 months ago

Ilsa was by all accounts was a sweetie . Jon was the more successful & later a difficult man. Australian sources carefully inserted that the family was already in Germany in 1944.

The Red Army only began the Baltic offensive Aug 31 . Riga was taken Oct 25 . Hitler did not allow his forces to retreat & soon there was no retreat . Hence the only Latvians in Germany were extricated because of their ‘value for services rendered .’ Or they were actually high level functionaries already there.

It was common knowledge in Western Sydney in the 50s-60s, that amongst genuine displaced ppl , they inserted Nazis. A reason the family did not get to USA was… Read more »

Reply to  Corn Pop
3 months ago

He had depression and bi polar undiagnosed, was probably self medicating as lots of people in that position do!

Corn Pop
Reply to  Gheko
3 months ago

.an , I lived amongst thes

Corn Pop
Reply to  Gheko
3 months ago

It’s probably a good sign . In the 1990s my neighbours were still proud Ustashi.

3 months ago

Fight On Jon! Conquest is playing for you.

3 months ago

I remember watching John and Ilsa when I was five, the first Olympics I can recall. May his memory endure as a blessing.

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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