Vale John Konrads
Esteemed Member of the Sport Australia Hall of Fame
21/05/1942 – 25/04/2021
The Sport Australia Hall of Fame (SAHOF) is mourning the passing of esteemed Member John Konrads (Swimming) who passed away at the age of 78 on Sunday, April 25, 2021.
Born in Riga, Latvia, Konrads emigrated with his parents Janis and Elza, grandmother, and sisters Eve and Ilsa in August 1944, initially to Germany. This came after Latvia’s occupation by German troops during the Second World War and then re-occupation by Soviet troops. Living in Germany until 1949, their application to immigrate to the United States was refused on account of the large size of the family. They were relocated to a camp at Uranquinty, which was previously a base for the Royal Australian Air Force, in rural western New South Wales.
Konrads dominated the Australian swimming scene for a brief but brilliant time in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Across his career, he set 26 individual freestyle world records between 200m and 1500m. He represented Australia at the Olympic Games, winning gold in the 1500m freestyle at the 1960 Rome Olympics.
Konrads’ Olympic medal tally was one gold and two bronze, all of them won in Rome. In 1959 he won every Australian freestyle title, in 1958 won the Japanese and French National Championships in 400m and 1500m, and later held the American NCAA titles for 500yds and 1650yds in 1963.
But it was the early days that held the sporting world in thrall. Konrads was at his record breaking best in 1958, the year of the Cardiff Empire and Commonwealth Games. He won three gold medals – the 440yds, 1650yds and the 4x220yds relay. This came after he and sister Ilsa had dominated the national championships in January that year. John set the 800m and half mile records for men, then followed with 200m, furlough, 400m and quarter mile records during the next week.
SAHOF Chair John Bertrand AO said; “As a swimming sensation in the 1950’s and 60’s, John Konrads dominated the world swimming scene, breaking every freestyle world record between 200m – 1500m by the time he was 15. His career tally of 26 individual world records is an incredible record. He was a proud Sport Australia Hall of Fame Member with an extravagant sense of humour who will leave a lasting legacy around the world.
Our condolences are with his sister Ilsa, the Konrads family and the many lives John touched within the swimming and broader communities.”
John Konrads was inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame as an Athlete Member for his contribution to the sport of swimming in 1985.
Read John Konrads’ full biography here.