Thornlie Swimming Club coach inducted into Swimming WA Hall of Fame


Thornlie Swimming Club coach and Hall of Fame inductee George Brown. Picture: Jon Hewson
Thornlie Swimming Club coach and Hall of Fame inductee George Brown. Picture: Jon Hewson

THORNLIE Swimming Club coach and Swimming WA Hall of Fame inductee George Brown is proud to have helped put physically disabled swimmers on the map.

Brown became the Hall of Fame’s 59th inductee at a ceremony earlier this month after more than 40 years of coaching able-bodied, physically disabled and intellectually disabled swimmers.

Over his career, he coached swimmers to a combined three gold medals, eleven silvers and three bronze at the Paralympics between 1984 and 1992.

He said his biggest achievement as a coach was being amongst the first coaches in Australia to train physically disabled athletes at a high level.

“When I went away (to the Paralympics and World Swimming Championships) in 1984 and 1986, there weren’t’ any other coaches there, at least not any professional coaches,” Brown said.

“They had minders, chaperones, volunteers, but they had very little knowledge of technique of stroke or coaching expertise.

“While I coached, I also adopted other swimmers that weren’t mine from other states and after that, more and more coaches realised disabled athletes could function in a squad.”

Brown, who coached one of Australia’s most successful Paralympians Kingsley Bugarin, initially started coaching a handful of physically disabled swimmers in the early 1980s.

“One blind swimmer was the son of my local pharmacist and he asked me if I’d consider coaching him and because we had that one swimmer, a couple of others from the blind association joined,” he said.

“We did pretty well at nationals and then other swimmers who had cerebral palsy, amputees, even deaf swimmers came to us.”

He said coaching the physically disabled swimmers alongside the able-bodied proved initially to be a struggle.

“In the squad of 60 that we had, 50 of them able-bodied, it was a bit difficult with 10 disabled, but we managed.

“There were collisions and both the able bodied and disabled just had to cope with that. The swimmers had a really tough time of it, but they did well.”

Brown, who also coached for Ascot, Victoria Park and Armadale Swimming Clubs, said his coaching career had been fulfilling.

“It’s not exactly taught me anything, but it’s been fulfilling I can get people to do things they never believed possible.

“The fact I can get people to believe in themselves enough, to put in that extra work, to go the extra mile, to get state and national records and for the disabled, world records.”

He said his Hall of Fame induction had been a pleasant surprise and was proud to have served the Western Australian swimming community for as long as he had.

MORE: Stepping Out of the Shadows: campaign aims to raise $1m for Lifeline WA

MORE: 24-hour treadmill run at Danny Green’s gym to help prevent suicide

MORE: Local government proposing plan to cut landfill