His voice beams with enthusiasm, pride and with the feeling that nothing easy is worth doing. It is defying the odds… doing the impossible that excites Laurie Lawrence. He is the master innovator. He inspires confidence and belief. No challenge is too great, no task is impossible. Everyone around him soaks in his enthusiasm.
And that is just what Lawrence has done – create the atmosphere for his swimmers to succeed. To some people, Lawrence is a crazy, over-competitive mad man. But his shining side, his greatest asset, is his ability and attitude in helping young Australians achieve their goals. He is the kind of coach who could have coached in any sport and been successful. Even from his own competitive days as an athlete playing rugby for his country, it was winning for Australia that counted for Lawrence. Displaying typical grit and determination, Lawrence fought for and gained a place as half back in the Wallabies team which toured New Zealand in 1964.
Win and produce winners is what he did, and in a way that only Lawrence could do. His first big charge was Helen Gray, whom he shocked in 1970 by throwing her Queensland silver medal over the fence as his way of saying, “Don’t be complacent. You can be a medalist at the Commonwealth Games if you re-focus, work hard.” She did, winning silver in the 800m freestyle and a birth on the 1972 Olympic team.
His swimmers include Steve Holland, the youngest ever world record holder at age 15 who set 11 world records in the 800m and 1500m freestyles, and was a World Championship and Commonwealth Games gold medalist, and an Olympic bronze medalist; Tracy Wickham, five time world record holder for nine and a half years in the distance freestyle events, World Championship and Commonwealth Games gold medalist; Jon Seiben who at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics beat Michael Gross of Germany in the 200m butterfly, setting a new world record; Duncan Armstrong, Seoul’s 200m freestyle gold medalist and 400m silver medalist and world record holder in the process.
Lawrence’s coaching achievements, his communication skills, and his unique brand of humour saw the Australian Olympic Committee make him an integral part of the Australian team at the Atlanta 1996, Sydney 2000, and Athens 2004 Olympic Games. Lawrence was part of the Australian Olympic team with the brief to unite, inspire, motivate and relax the entire team. He has been known to encourage his swim team to manipulate their Olympic accreditation so they could watch other events, namely Cathy Freeman’s 400m gold at the 2000 Sydney Olympics! Lawrence will once again join the Australian Olympic team at the 2008 Beijing Games.
From being around the Townsville Pool his father ran, and sparked into swimming by Jon Henricks, Lawrence has become a swimming legend and a creator of champions, capable of lifting the spirits of those around him to soaring heights. He is many other things too – extrovert, patriot, poet, humorist, and singer. His swimmers have set 23 world records, won 10 gold medals, 11 silver medals and 12 bronze medals at Olympic level, and he has coached Australian teams to three Commonwealth Games and three Olympic Games. He possesses the qualities with which he works to instill in every competitor: be proud, persist, work hard, stand tall, don’t quit, don’t bend, don’t break, don’t fall.
There would be few who do not know of Lawrence or his spirited personality, his sense of humour or his zest for life. For those who know him well there would be no disputing that his manner is direct, sincere and honest. Whatever Lawrence is involved in, he gives all of himself. He cares deeply about the people he influences and he refuses to rest until he has achieved his best.