Legendary Australian Sports Journalist Wayne Smith Dies At 69

by Willem Stoll 0

June 12th, 2023 Australia, News

Wayne “Smithy” Smith, of the Sydney Morning Herald, one of the pioneering journalists in Australian swimming, died on Tuesday, June 6 in Queensland, Australia. He was 69 years old.

Smith burst onto the Australian sports journalism scene nearly five decades ago with his rugby union coverage. He would later move on to cover cricket and swimming throughout his illustrious career, working for the major Australian media organizations News Corp before working at the Sydney Morning Herald, the Courier-Mail, the Brisbane Telegraph, and The Australian.

Smith was “respected for his fearless commitment to the sports he loved and his relentless pursuit of accuracy and accountability,” Swimming Australia wrote in a release last week.

Australian National head coach Rohan Taylor said: “I had lunch with Wayne just before the Tokyo Olympics but his relationship with the swimming community extended over decades. He was a student of the sport, he was tough but he was fair.”

“He was always seeking to understand and he knew his stuff. He genuinely cared about the people he wrote about but there were no free passes. Swimming was blessed to have him in our corner.”

Upon the news of his sudden death, many of his colleagues began to reminisce about his accomplishments and the good times they spent with him. Colleagues described him as someone who would give attention to the most minute details, and the people trying to start their journalistic careers.

Swim photographer Steve Thomas noted that Smith “was particular about ‘his’ swimmers,” specifically those from the Queensland area, including the likes of Cate Campbell, Grant Hackett, Kieren Perkins, and Duncan Armstrong. When there was a story regarding these swimmers, Smith was all over it, being regarded as “feisty, and affable,” but ensuring the greatest detail in his work, according to Thomas.

Long-time friend and colleague Jim Tucker also noted, “Rugby union and swimming were blessed to have Wayne Smith’s relentless and brilliant writing to chronicle their highest moments, analyze every issue and call out their failings for 50 years.”

Another colleague, Mike Colman, recounted a moment that reflected the dedication of Smith. During the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, Smith covered the men’s 1500 freestyle, where Kieren Perkins defended his Olympic title, and fellow Aussie Daniel Kowalski won silver.

Soon after that race, a domestic terrorist event occurred when Eric Rudolph set off a pipe bomb killing one bystander and injuring 111. Colman noted that when he returned to the room to tell Smith about the bombing, Smith was stationed in front of the television, “filing live copy back to Australia.”

Smith was also a pivotal member in the movement to have Australia host another Olympic Games, as he was the first journalist to raise the idea. Through his idea, Brisbane was named host of the 2032 Olympic Games in 2020, with no rival bid and 72 of the 80 delegates voting in favor.

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