The Roar
The Roar


26 days to Rio: The original golden boy of Australian swimming

Murray Rose - Australia (AAP Image/Sport the Library)
10th July, 2016

44-years before Ian Thorpe’s dominance, Murray Rose was the original Australian teenage sensation in the pool.

At the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, Rose delighted the home crowd by winning two individual gold medals in the 400 and 1500 metre freestyle events, as well as a gold in the 4 x 200 freestyle relay team.


He was just 17-years of age.

To prove it was no fluke, Rose backed up his performance four years later at Rome and won gold in the 400 metres again. No one in men’s world swimming won back-to-back gold medals in that event until Ian Thorpe defended his Sydney Olympics title in Athens.

Rose was part of the amateur era, well before the Australian Institute of Sport and enormous funding we see in professional sport today.

While his achievements in two Olympic Games were remarkable, his career will also be remembered for controversially being overlooked for selection at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.
Rose had set two world records in the lead up to the trials but was denied by officials because he hadn’t swum at the Australian Championships.

At the time of the Championships, Rose was in America, appearing in a move titled ‘Ride the Wild Surf.’

The decision to leave Rose out of the Tokyo trials is one of the dark moments of Australian swimming and current Australian Olympic Committee President John Coates called it ‘officialdom gone mad.’


“He clearly should have been selected. When you’ve got a guy who’s won four gold medals, I would have hoped there’d be some way you can have some more flexibility, but there wasn’t then,” Coates said in an Australian Story interview in 2013.

Others believed Rose chose to put acting career ahead of swimming, but one could hardly blame the Australian for seeking extra income.

Whatever one’s thoughts are of the incident in 1964, there’s no doubting Murray Rose is a legend of Australian swimming and is considered by some the best ever because of the era he competed in.

Murray Rose passed away in 2012 after being diagnosed with leukaemia. He was 73.

Be sure to follow The Roar as we look back on some of the most memorable moments in Olympic history – be they weird and wacky or brilliant and significant – and count down the days until the Rio Olympics opening ceremony.

50 days to go: Australia’s first Olympian, Edwin Flack
49 days to go: Brazil capitulate at the 2012 Olympics
48 days to go: Blood in the water during the 1956 Melbourne Olympics
47 days to go: Daniel Carroll, the man who won rugby gold with Australia and America
46 days to go: Margaret Abbott – the golfer who didn’t know she had won gold
45 days to go: Where did all the amateurs go?
44 days to go: Australia’s oarsome foursome
43 days to go: When Korea stood as one
42 Days to go: Oscar Swahn, the oldest Olympian
41 days to go: Edith Bosch – the Olympian not known for her medals
40 days to go: Jane Saville’s heartbreaking Sydney Olympics
39 days to go: Herb Elliot dominates in Rome 1960
38 days to go: Teofilo Stevenson, the boxer who might have beaten Ali
37 days to go: Betty Cuthbert steals the show in Melbourne
36 days to go: Jesse Owens’ heroic performance in Berlin
35 days to go: Eric the Eel steals Sydney’s heart
34 days to go: What happened to Cassius Clay’s gold medal?
33 days to go: Australia’s equestrian brilliance at Barcelona
32 days to go: The Olympic sports which are no longer with us
31 days to go: Debbie Flintoff-King wins on the line
30 days to go: The dominance of basketball’s Dream Team
29 days to go: Nadia Comenaci scores gymnastics’ first-ever perfect score
28 days to go: The man who stopped for a duck
27 days to go: The upset of the Sydney Olympics
26 days to go: Murray Rose’s scintilating Melbourne performance
25 days to go: Greg Louganis’ heroic comeback win
24 days to go: Fencing turns to duelling in Paris
23 days to go: Dawn Fraser’s flag-stealing shenanigans
22 days to go: The most prolific Olympic competitor
21 days to go: Duncan Armstrong’s underdog win in Seoul
20 days to go: Johnny Weissmuller: A brilliant swimmer and Hollywood actor
19 days to go: Majorie Jackson – the Lithgow Flash
18 days to go: Larisa Latynina, the most successful female Olympian
17 days to go: Dimitrios Loundras, the child who won an Olympic medal
16 days to go: Roy Jones Jr is robbed of an Olympic gold
15 days to go: Shane Gould’s superstar performance in Munich
14 days to go: The Kookaburras finally fly to the top of the world
13 days to go: Matthew Mitcham’s historic dive
12 days to go: Even Olympians are prone to the odd fail
11 days to go: Abebe Bikila wins the Olympic marathon running in bare feet
10 days to go: Track cycling’s greatest rivalry
9 days to go: Kieran Perkins’ gold medal from lane eight
8 days to go: Sally Pearson’s awesome run in London
7 days to go: Mark Spitz’ perfect seven gold medals in ’72
6 days to go: Usain Bolt torches the field in Beijing
5 days to go: Michael Klim and Ian Thorpe help smash America’s 4x100m world record like a guitar
4 days to go: Tommie Smith and John Carlos’ defiant black power salute
3 days to go: Michael Phelps – the best to ever grace the Olympics
2 days to go: Cathy Freeman delivers with the weight of a country on her back
1 day to go: Ian Thorpe – Australia’s finest Olympian