Click photo to enlarge
Duncan Laing gets a hug from Danyon Loader at the Otago
Sportsperson of the Year Awards. Photo by Jane Dawber.
Swimming coach Duncan Laing, one of New Zealand's most
celebrated coaches, died today in Dunedin at the age of 77.
Coach of dual Olympic gold medal swimmer Danyon Loader, Laing
had been ill for some time.
Laing has had health problems in recent years , including an
operation for a brain tumour and having a melanoma removed
from his leg in 2006.
The retiring Laing, who guided Loader to a double gold medal
at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, was made a Companion of the New
Zealand Order of Merit in 2007s Queen's Birthday honours. He
had been awarded an OBE earlier.
A big man with a commanding presence, Duncan Laing sat
poolside for decades, cajoling, encouraging, demanding better
from his charges.
One of New Zealand's most celebrated sports coaches, Laing is
best remembered for the 200m and 400m freestyle swimming gold
medals won at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics by his star pupil,
Laing had been troubled by poor health in his latter years,
after retiring from coaching in late 2006 following a 40-year
career contracted to Moana Pool in Dunedin.
He was treated in hospital in 2006 for a melanoma-like growth
which was removed from his leg and in the same year he had
surgery to remove a brain tumour.
His passing will be mourned by many, inside and outside of
swimming, because Laing had a profound impact on thousands of
swimmers, from toddlers to the elite level. He treated all
the same, no matter their abilities. All he asked of anyone
was that they give of their best.
He certainly did his best by swimming.
Laing's long service to the sport has been recognised by any
number of honours down the years.
He was made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in
the Queen's Birthday Honours in 2005, and was also awarded an
OBE in 1993, made a life member of Swimming New Zealand in
1996 and inducted into the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame in
As well, Laing was named New Zealand's top sports coach at
the Halberg awards in 1992 and 1996.
Former Olympic chef de mission Dave Gerrard once described
Laing as "the Arthur Lydiard of New Zealand swimming,"
referring to the legendary athletics coach, who was credited
with popularising the sport of jogging.
Gerrard did not make the comparison lightly and it was an