Jon Sieben (AUS)
Honor Swimmer (2022)
FOR THE RECORD: 1984 OLYMPIC GAMES: GOLD (200M BUTTERFLY), BRONZE (4X100M MEDLEY); 1988 OLYMPIC GAMES: 4TH (100M BUTTERFLY), 6TH (4X100M MEDLEY); 1992 OLYMPIC GAMES: 6TH (4X100M MEDLEY); ONE WORLD RECORD: 100M BUTTERFLY; 1982 COMMONWEALTH GAMES: GOLD (4X100M MEDLEY), BRONZE (200M BUTTERFLY)
If it wasn’t for the Sieben family cat, we might not all be here tonight for Jon. Following a near drowning of the animal, Jon’s mum immediately hauled Jon over for a learn-to-swim, figuring if the cat could drown, so could Jon. Fast forward 11 years, Sieben attends the National Age Group Championships
where he wins a silver and a bronze respectively, in the 100 and the 200m butterfly. Yet, he wanted more. Sieben heard rumors that the great Laurie Lawrence was planning to return to coaching. The two met, and at their first meeting, in typical “Laurie” fashion, he asked Jon, ”Are you hungry?” Once Jon figured out exactly what that meant, he knew Laurie was the coach for him. With Lawrence, the results were immediate. Sieben’s time in the 100m butterfly dropped from 60 to 55 seconds and his 200 time went from 2:11 to a dramatic 2:01
At 15, Sieben won his first Australian Open National Championship in the 200m butterfly and placed second in the 100m butterfly to make his first Senior Australian Team, which qualified him to attend the Commonwealth Games.
Sieben made his debut on the international stage, as a 15-year-old, at the 1982 Commonwealth Games and won bronze in the 200m butterfly and gold as a member of the 4x100m medley relay.
Heading into the 1984 Olympic Games, Sieben was not even on the radar for a medal. Sieben was the youngest and probably the most untested swimmer in the race, and his competition was herculean. He would be swimming against Michael Gross of West Germany, who had a wingspan of 7 ft 4 inches and had already amassed two gold and one silver from the Games only days prior. Of course, there was the USA’s Pablo Morales, ranked third all-time in the event, and was the world record holder of the 100.
With Sieben in lane six at the halfway mark of the race, he was well back as he had planned, and as he turned at the 150 mark behind Gross and Morales, Jon shifted into high gear, exploding in the pool and blowing past them in the final 50 meters, winning in a world record time of 1:57.04, stunning just about everyone in the Coliseum, except his coach, Laurie Lawrence. It was the first Australian Olympic gold medal in swimming in 12 years. Not since Brad Cooper last took the title of the 400 I.M. in Munich, in 1972.
The following year in Tokyo, in 1985, at the Commonwealth Games, Sieben took home two silver medals, one in the 100m butterfly and the other as a member of the 4×100 medley relay. Later that year, he swam at the Universiade Games, in Kobe Japan, where he took gold in the 100m butterfly event, once again defeating both Matt Biondi and Michael Gross.
Shoulder injuries restricted Sieben’s performance at the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games, he did however compete in the 100m butterfly, finishing fourth in the finals. The Australians took sixth in the medley relay with Jon swimming the butterfly.
He retired for a few years and made a comeback, competing in the 1992 Games in Barcelona, unfortunately, Sieben did not final in either of his events. He did however become the first swimmer to compete in three consecutive Olympic Games, since Dawn Fraser had done it in 1956, 1960 and 1964.