Murray Rose

Athlete Biography

1939 - 2012 

Murray Rose, like Betty Cuthbert, emerged from the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne as a national hero. Born in Birmingham, England, and brought to Australia as an infant after the outbreak of World War II, he had his first swimming lessons at the age of five at Sydney’s Redleaf Pool in Double Bay. His first teacher was the 1924 diving gold medallist Dick Eve, and he was seven when Sam Herford became the pool’s resident coach. Rose’s idol was John Marshall, breaker of 28 world records; in January 1956 he cut Marshall’s world record for 880 yards, and went on to set 14 more world records over the next nine years.

Rose won the first of his three 1956 gold medals in the final of the 4 x 200m freestyle relay. He followed with victories in the 400m freestyle and 1500m freestyle, becoming the first swimmer in 36 years to win both individual events. After the Games, Rose moved to Los Angeles and attended the University of Southern California. He returned to Australia to train for the 1960 Rome Olympics, where he won the 400m freestyle and finished second to John Konrads in the 1500m. He was the only swimmer ever to have won the 400m freestyle twice in a row; that honour is now shared with Ian Thorpe (2000-2004).

Bizarrely, even though he had recently set two world records, Australian swimming officials refused him permission to swim in the Olympic trials for the Tokyo Games. It was a frustrating ending to a wonderful career.       

Harry Gordon, AOC historian