Andrew 'Boy' Charlton

Athlete Biography

1908 - 1975

Andrew 'Boy' Charlton received more adulation than almost any Australian of his time. The nickname was bestowed because he was only 14 when he first came to prominence, downing a visiting champion from Hawaii, Bill Harris - and it stayed with him forever. He was 15 when he clipped 19 seconds from the world record to win the NSW 880 yards freestyle title in January 1923, and 16 when he beat the mighty Frank Beaurepaire in a 440 match race. Beaurepaire, one of the nation's heroes - a man who had swum in his first Olympics when Charlton was less than a year old - was then twice his age.

Charlton learned to swim in the surf and baths at Manly, on Sydney Harbour. He was coached by an ex-soldier, Tom Adrian, and he favoured a hybrid stroke: a crawl blended into the old trudgen. Charlton's status as a national idol was confirmed when he beat the Swedish world record-holder Arne Borg three times in early 1924; after their first clash at the Domain Baths in Sydney (since named after Charlton) the cheering could be heard quite a distance away in Martin Place. That year in Paris (where he turned 17) Charlton won gold over 1500 metres at the Olympic Games - after a trip in which the war-damaged Adrian dived from the top deck of the Ormonde into the Indian Ocean in a bizarre, unsuccessful suicide bid. Charlton competed in three Olympics (1924, 1928 and 1932), and earned three silver medals and a bronze to sit with his gold. He broke five world records, and carried the flag for Australia in the 1932 Olympics.

Harry Gordon, AOC historian