Jon Henricks

Jon Henricks after winning gold in the men's 100m freestyle at the Melbourne 1956 Olympic Games.

Athlete Biography

1935 -

Jon Henricks, the blond sprinter who spearheaded Australia’s devastating assault on the Olympic swimming program in 1956, began his career as a distance swimmer. In the 1952 Australian championships he finished third in the 1650 yards, and first in the 440 yards. Soon afterwards Frank Cotton, the physiology professor who became the father of Australian sports science, made the judgment that Henricks was better suited to sprint swimming. He made the switch at 17, with a revolutionary training program devised by Cotton and his coach Harry Gallagher, and success came quickly. In 1953 he won the first of four successive 110 yards championships and in 1954 he won three gold medals at the Vancouver Empire Games (one for 110 yards, two for relays).

Henricks was 21 when he won Australia’s first swimming gold medal of the Melbourne Olympics in the 100 metres freestyle, with John Devitt and Gary Chapman filling the placings behind him. He set an Olympic record, becoming the first Australian ever to win that event. When the Olympics began, he had never been beaten in a major sprint event - and he kept that record intact in the heat, semi-final and final. He won a second gold medal in the 4 x 200 metres freestyle relay, anchoring a team that included Devitt, Kevin O’Halloran and Murray Rose. He later joined Rose at the University of Southern California. At the 1960 Rome Olympics he suffered a gastric complaint, and failed to progress beyond the semi-finals of the 100 metres - won by John Devitt. 

Harry Gordon, AOC Historian