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Reproduced courtesy of John Konrads

Opening ceremony of the US National Championships in Ohio

Date: 1963
Overall: 90 x 125 mm
Medium: Black and white photograph
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Copyright: © John Konrads
Object Name: Photograph
Object No: ANMS1392[326]
Related Place:Ohio,

User Terms

    John Konrads (b 1942) was a Latvian immigrant who came to Australia with his family at age 7 as a refugee after World War II. He and his sister Ilsa trained together and became teenage swimming sensations and poster children for the Australian Government’s ‘Beautiful Balts’ immigration campaign after the war. He went on to win a gold medal at the 1960 Rome Olympic Games. The museum holds a collection of material including personal apparel and clothing, programs, notes, awards and medals related to John Konrads' competitive career at various NSW, Australian, Commonwealth and Olympic championship events. It represents the peak of Konrads' swimming career, when he broke more than twenty world records in a range of distances from 1957-1960. Other material, including documents and singing performances from his brief television career, represent his life beyond swimming and what is now a common career path for telegenic Australian sporting champions - the media.
    SignificanceThis collection of personal apparel and clothing, programs, notes, awards and medals represents not only the swimming career of John Konrads but also yields information about swimming techniques, training styles, strokes and competition more broadly, during what is known as a golden age of Australian swimming, the late 1950s to early 1960s. The material has significance and interpretive potential for the information it contains, the freshness of the original photographs taken on training camps and in competition by an insider, by Konrads, alongside the public images of swimming champions of the era. It presents a nice range of material which renders accessible the competitive touring and training regimes of the era.
    HistoryJohn Konrads was born in Riga, Latvia in 1942. After fleeing Latvia and spending five years in a displaced persons camp in Germany, he and his family came to Australia as refugees in July 1949. Konrads’ father taught swimming at the migrants camp at Uranquinty in western NSW where John learnt to swim to recover after contracting polio. He trained with his younger sister Ilsa, and teamed up with rising swimming coach Don Talbot at Bankstown Baths. Both teenagers followed Talbot’s career trajectory as coach, rising to become champion swimmers. John and Ilsa became one of the public images of the ‘Beautiful Balts’ campaign aimed at dispossessed peoples from Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, as part of the Australian Government’s aggressive 'Populate or perish' immigration policy after the war.

    At 14 years of age, Konrads was selected as a reserve for the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games. Labelled the ‘brilliant schoolboy champion’, newspapers and magazines closely followed the rising talent and his sister. The Australian Women’s Weekly reported that the ‘Konrads’ kids’ were on their way to becoming ‘the greatest swimmers in Australian history’. In 1958 and 1959, John claimed more than twenty world records in six events at distances from 200 to 1500 metres, including both the Australasian championships of 1957 and the Cardiff Empire Games in 1958. With Talbot he cut back his competition program for the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome where he won medals in the three events in which he participated. Konrads won gold in the 1500 metre freestyle, and bronze medals in both the 400 metre freestyle and the 4x200 metre freestyle relay.

    Konrads, along with fellow champions Murray Rose and Jon Henricks, went on to study at the University of Southern California on a sporting scholarship. He completed a business degree in 1963. He eventually retired from swimming in 1964, however, followed his retirement by working as a swimming coach and mentor in Sydney and Paris, France. He later worked as Managing Director at L’Oreal Australia and General Marketing Manager for Ansett.

    John Konrads was swimming during one of the most successful periods for Australian swimmers with champions like Dawn Fraser, Jon Devitt, Murray Rose, Lorraine Crapp and his sister Ilsa. His sporting accomplishments have been acknowledged in the Sport Australia Hall of Fame and International Swimming Hall of Fame.
    Additional Titles

    Assigned title: Photograph depicting the Opening ceremony US National Championships

    Web title: Opening ceremony of the US National Championships in Ohio

    Collection title: John Konrads collection

    Related People
    Photographer: John Konrads

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