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Australian Dolphins | 18 August 2023

Swimming Australia pays tribute to Olympic icon

SWIMMING Australia has paid tribute to Olympic great, former President and esteemed sports administrator John Devitt (pictured middle) after his passing on Thursday.

The Melbourne 1956 and Rome 1960 Olympian passed away after a long illness. John, who was 86, broke 14 world records during his 13-year swimming career.

Swimming Australia Head coach Rohan Taylor led a chorus of tributes for the legendary swimmer, who was a double Olympic champion in one of Australia’s golden eras in the pool.

“I met John as a young coach and spent quite some time with him … he was great ambassador and leader to swimming, his influence on the sport was enormous,” Taylor said.

“He always put athletes first and cared for the sport at all levels.

“I send my condolences to Wendy (his wife), his family and friends.”

Devitt won his first gold medal as a member of the Australian men’s 4x200m freestyle relay at Melbourne in 1956.

He then won his second in the individual 100m freestyle at Rome in 1960 in what remains one of the most controversial finishes in Olympic history.

It was the last Olympics where electronic timing was not used to decide the outcome of swimming races so confusion reigned when Devitt and his American rival Lance Larson reached the finish wall at the same time.

Of the six judges who decided the outcome, three believed the Australian had won while the other three thought Larson was the victor.

In 1979, he was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame. In 1986, he was inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame.

Devitt later served as an executive on the Australian Olympic Committee and helped Sydney win the bid for the 2000 Olympics.

He was also the Australian chef de mission for the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne.

But his first sporting love was deep, and he served Swimming Australia in many roles, including as President.