Great Britain and the ISHOF family lose a great one: David Wilkie loses his battle with cancer…..

Scottish swimmer, David Wilkie, who became known as the “Flying Scotsman” during his Olympic career in swimming during the 1970’s, lost his battle with cancer today. He was only 70 years old. Wilkie was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1982.

David Wilkie at his induction with other Inductees, including Joan Harrison (RSA)

The information on this page was written the year of their induction.

FOR THE RECORD:  OLYMPIC GAMES: 1972 silver (200m breaststroke); 1976 gold (200m breaststroke, silver 9100m breaststroke); WORLD RECORDS: 3 (200m breaststroke; 200m individual medley); AAU NATIONALS: 3 (100yd, 200yd breaststroke; 200yd individual medley); NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS: 3 (100yd, 200yd breaststroke); EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS: 1974 gold (200m breaststroke; 200m individual medley), silver (relay); COMMONWEALTH GAMES: 1974 gold (200m breaststroke; 200m individual medley), silver (100m breaststroke); 1970 bronze (200m breaststroke); AMATEUR SWIMMING ASSOCIATION CHAMPIONSHIPS: 10 (100yd, 200yd breaststroke; 200yd individual medley); WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS: 1972 gold (200m breaststroke); 1973 bronze (200m individual medley); 1975 gold (100m, 200m breaststroke), bronze (relay); CANADIAN NATIONAL: 1 (200m breaststroke); SCOTTISH CHAMPIONSHIPS: 9 (400m freestyle; 100m backstroke; 110yd, 100m breaststroke; 220yd, 200m breaststroke; 200m, 400m individual medley); U.S. OPEN RECORD: 1 (200yd breaststroke).

David Wilkie was born in Sri Lanka, to Scottish parents in 1954. David began swimming in Sri Lanka, were the family loved going to the swimming club. They eventually moved back to Scotland, but their love of swimming continued. Wilkie was quickly noticed and invited to join the swim team. He trained at Warrender Baths Club, built at the turn of the Century, and as David recalled in a BBC Sport story, “It was a Victorian Bath.”

In 1970, David was picked for the Scottish Team to swim in his first Commonwealth Games and he won his first medal. A bronze, in the 200m breaststroke event. That medal was the catalyst of his swimming career. His career continued to skyrocket. He took the silver medal in 1972, at the Munich Olympic Games, and then the American Universities came knocking. He could not imagine spending the next four years training day in and day out in Edinburgh, so America came at just the right time. Schools like Alabama, Southern Cal, Florida, and Harvard. But David loved the tropics. He was born in Sri Lanka and lived there until he was 11. He never had wanted to leave and go back to Scotland. So, he choose the University of Miami, in beautiful Coral Gables. It helped that they gave him a four-year full ride and he liked the coach, Bill Diaz.

He trained between his two Olympic Games at the University of Miami, (Florida). David Wilkie was a Scotsman who liked warm weather.  He was Great Britain’s first swimming male Olympic gold medalist in 68 years (Hall of Famer Henry Taylor in 1907).  This versatile swimmer won Scot national titles in the 400m freestyle and 100m backstroke; Commonwealth, European and American titles in all four strokes, 200 Individual Medley in which he also held the world record, but he was at his best with his trademark bathing cap and goggles, bobbing through Scottish, British, U.S., AAU, NCAA, European, Commonwealth and Olympic breaststroke championships. 

A silver for his second place in the 1972 Olympic 200-meter breaststroke at Munich and a gold, silver and bronze at the 1976 Olympics in Montréal with every kind of a record achievement in between, labeled this flying Scot European Swimmer of the Year three times and British Sportsman of the Year.  Coached by David Haller in Britain and Bill Diaz in the USA, Wilkie retired after the 1976 Olympics to a successful new hobby in Masters Swimming, where he just naturally trained at his own pace and went right on winning.  He worked in London with the Sports Aide Foundation, writing books, and working as British representative for Team Arena among other things.

The World of Swimming will miss The Flying Scotsman.

http://BBC Sport – My Story: David Wilkie

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