Cecil Healy

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Cecil Healy
Cecil Healy, Olympic swimming gold, silver and bronze medallist.jpg
Medal record
Men's Swimming
Competitor for  Australasia
Olympic Games
Gold 1912 Stockholm 4x200 m freestyle relay
Silver 1912 Stockholm 100 m freestyle
1906 Intercalated Games
Bronze 1906 Athens 100 m freestyle
Healy, seated at left, with Manly Swimming Club teammates

Cecil Patrick Healy (28 November 1881 in Darlinghurst, New South Wales – 29 August 1918 in Somme, France) was an Australian freestyle swimmer of the 1900s and 1910s, who won silver in the 100m freestyle at the 1912 Summer Olympics in Stockholm. He also won gold in the 4x200m freestyle relay. He was killed in the First World War during the Battle of Somme in an attack on a German trench. Healy was the second swimmer behind Frederick Lane to represent Australia in Swimming and has been allocated the number "2" by Swimming Australia on a list of all Australians who have represented Australia at an Open International Level.

Early years[edit]

The son of a barrister, Healy was born in Darlinghurst, an inner-city suburb of Sydney, but moved with his family to the rural town of Bowral where he received his primary schooling. He moved to Sydney in 1896, joining the East Sydney Swimming Club, of which Frederick Lane was also a member. Healy was also a member of the North Steyne Surf Lifesaving Club.

Swimming career[edit]

In 1904, Healy posted the fastest ever time in the 100yd freestyle, 58s, but there were no official world records at the time. In 1905, his time of 58s in the 110yd freestyle at the Australasian Championships equalled the world record to earn him his first Australasian title. He was a proponent of the new crawl stroke, raising eyebrows among classicists who perceived it to be inelegant.

In 1906, Healy was sent to the 1906 Intercalated Olympics, one of only five athletes for whom the necessary funding was allocated. At the Games in Athens, Healy came third in the 100m freestyle behind the United States' Charles Daniel and Hungary's Zoltan Halmay. Halmay and Daniels were the gold and silver medallists respectively at the 1904 Summer Olympics.

After the Games, Healy toured Europe, giving many Europeans the first chance to see the crawl stroke; he competed in Hamburg, winning the Kaiser's Cup, and also competed in Belgium, Netherlands and Britain. He won the 220yd British Championships, but was thwarted in the 100yd event by Daniels.

Returning to Australia, Healy missed the Australian season. In 1908 he won the 110yd freestyle, but was unable to attend the 1908 Summer Olympics due to a lack of funds. In 1909 and 1910, he again successfully defended his Australian championships. In 1911, Healy inflicted the first defeat on Frank Beaurepaire in any race, after beating him in a 440yd race. However, that year, Harold Hardwick claimed Healy's 110yd titles.

In 1912, Healy came third in the 110yd, 220yd and 880yd events at the Australasian titles to qualify for the Australasian team at the 1912 Summer Olympics. (At the time, Australia sent a combined team with New Zealand).

In Stockholm, Healy entered the 100m event with fellow Australian Bill Longworth and American Duke Kahanamoku. All three qualified for the semi-final, with Kahanamoku clearly the quickest. Healy and Longworth then qualified from the first semifinal, but the three Americans, who were scheduled to qualify in the second semi-final did not, due an error by their team management. However, Healy intervened and assisted in an appeal to allow the Americans to swim another special race in order to qualify for the final. Despite protestation from other delegations, the Americans were allowed a separate race, with Kahanamoku qualifying for the final. In the final, Kahanamoku won easily, by 1.2s, over a bodylength, with Healy in second place. Healy's sportsmanship effectively cost him the gold medal.

In the 400m freestyle, Healy set a world record in his heat, but this was improved in the semifinals by George Hodgson of Canada and Hardwick, by over ten seconds. Healy finished fourth in the final. In the 4x200m freestyle, he combined with Hardwick, Leslie Boardman and Malcolm Champion to hold off the Kahanamoku-led Americans. After the Games, Healy toured Europe, where he lowered Beaurepaire's 220yd world record by more than three seconds in Scotland, before retiring and returning to Australia.

Healy encouraged the practise of swimming daily for exercise, and was active in lifesaving at Manly beach, winning the Royal Humane Society silver medal for saving numerous surfers. He wrote a booklet, The Crawl Stroke, which had a circulation of 20,000 for free distribution in the United Kingdom.

Healy was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1981.

Military career[edit]

In September 1915, Healy decided to enlist in the Australian Defence Force, and served as a quartermaster sergeant in Egypt and France. After attending officer training in Cambridge, he became a second lieutenant in June 1918 in the 19th Sportsman's Battalion. He was killed in action on the Somme battlefront. Healy remains the only Australian Olympic Gold medallist to die on the battlefield. He was buried at Assevillers New British Cemetery (France).[1]


  1. ^ Weiss, Gordon. "100 years ago in Stockholm: The Olympics". Global Mail. Digital Global Mail Limited. Retrieved 12 July 2012. 

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