Austin Rawlinson (GBR)
Honor Pioneer Swimmer (1994)
FOR THE RECORD: First British swimmer to win a National Championship using the back crawl stroke (1921); 5 A.S.A. NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS: 150yd backstroke, 1921-1926; 1924 OLYMPIC GAMES: 5th (100m backstroke); 1958 EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS BRITISH TEAM Coach; 1960 OLYMPIC GAMES TEAM Manager; 1968 appointed President of the Amateur Swimming Association.
Britain’s Pat Besford, Kevin Juba and David Wilkie have written outstanding swimming encyclopedias but Austin Rawlinson’s phone number is still the source most frequently given out when you call the British Amateur Athletic Union office for swimming information.
Austin Rawlinson introduced the alternating arm backstroke to Britain and Europe beginning in 1915, (modeled after Harry Hebner’s 1912 Olympic gold medal performance). Austin was champion of England five times from 1921 to 1926. He was a respected Liverpool police officer, but his passion was swimming.
After his years in active competition (including the 1924 Olympic), he went on to hold just about every administrative and officiating position in the hallowed ASA–the Amateur Swiming Association and first world national governing body for swimming.
Austin has long since retired as a police officer, but his volunteer career as Britain’s resident swimming authority, official and administrator has been continuous for more than 70 years. His swimming career began as a backstroker and water polo player and continued as a referee, coach (1958 European Championships) and 1960 Rome Olympic manager.
Rawlinson’s career was highlighted in 1961 when Queen Elizabeth appointed him a member of the Order of the British Empire for his services to swimming. In 1968 he became President of the ASA and later received the Harold Fern Award for his untiring devotion to Britain swimming. In addition, he was awarded the silver pin for services to international swimming by FINA and recently was elected to life membership in the Scottish Swim Federation.
At 92, Austin Rawlinson has done it all, but he may best be remembered by swimming historians as the man who replaced the elementary English backstroke. His teaching demonstrations made him the most traveled British champion ever. Advertised as “The Wonder Man of British Swimming,” Austin earned this title swimming over one foot of mud in three feet of water to win his first national championship. He crawled over the mud, whereas the rest of the backstrokers were still plowing through it with their inverted breaststroke.