Former Olympian shares his stories

Olympian Kiama’s Terry Nicoll will discuss his life and career next week.
Olympian Kiama’s Terry Nicoll will discuss his life and career next week.

FROM representing Australia at the Olympic Games, acting as Dawn Fraser’s personal coach and being assisted by a Hollywood screen legend, Kiama’s Terry Nicoll has led an intriguing life.

The 81-year-old will recall his colourful 17-year career as an Australian modern pentathlon competitor, which included being selected to represent Australia at three Olympic Games at a special event next week.

However, he actually only made it to one - the 1956 games in Melbourne - after being ruled out of Rome (1960) and Tokyo (1964) through injury – both due to involving accidents involving his horse.

“I was a ‘bushie’ who was the eldest of 11 children and by the time I grew up, my father was very ill, so when I left school in 1948, I had to take on the job of bread-winner, so got a job as a stock and station agent,” Mr Nicoll said.

“After serving four years of national service and the Australian Reserves, by chance, I met up with well-known swimming personality Forbes Carlisle at Bronte pool.

‘‘He suggested that, because I was a strong swimmer and good rider, I should take up modern pentathlon.’’

While he wasn’t pleased about wearing stockings and pantaloons for the fencing, he started training and loved the challenge.

“To be selected for Australia was a real thrill.

‘‘In fact, I could have missed all three (Olympics), after being kicked in the face by my horse just before Melbourne.’’

A brush with fame occurred while he 

was sitting on the side of a Melbourne pool, contemplating how he could compete in the Olympic swimming event while wearing a facial mask.

“This tall, great big man in a US swim team tracksuit came along, said he could see I was troubled, and volunteered to help me out. ‘

‘He looked very familiar – he was a striking looking man with a superb physique -  and we spent the next 90 minutes in the pool working out how I could compete.

“When he was leaving he asked my name and I told him.

‘‘He said his name was John Weissmuller, who was a famous Olympic swimmer, but better-known as Tarzan in Hollywood.

“The legendary Shirley Stickland was also instrumental in my recovery and when her events got closer she introduced me to another legend, Czech marathon runner Emil Zatopek.’’

He joined the Mounted Police the year after the 1965 Olympics, where he met his hero, Jesse Owens.

“I will always remember his message and it definitely left a lasting impression.”

He served in the mounted police for six-and-a-half years, and the police force for 31 years.

Australian swimming legend Dawn Fraser also co-opted Nicoll as her coach when she decided to take part in Masters swimming events.

 ‘‘We had to get permission for Dawn not use the diving platform at the start of races after suffering a broken neck and she went to the next on to win nine Masters gold medals,’’ he said. 

After winning seven gold medals at the NSW Police Olympics, he was talked into competing in the World Games, the first in Austin Texas where he won six medals, including three golds.

He repeated the effort two years later in Arizona, again in Columbus, Ohio and during his final one in 1988 in Sydney, winning four medals, including two gold.  

His major love now, apart from his partner of 40 years Gloria, is golf, having previously played for three years on the PGA Tour as a celebrity. 

The Kiama U3A will presents a talk by Mr Nicoll at 2pm on Monday, July 28 at North Kiama Neighbourhood Centre. 

He will discuss the question - do we still have the Olympic spirit, or has it become a gigantic spectacle ? 

All welcome.