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 Guardian, the 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.