Danyon Loader, one of New Zealand’s greatest swimmers, says the death of his coach Duncan Laing meant the end of an era.
He called him a “special and memorable” man who shaped him as a swimmer and a person.
“He was one of the most successful coaches in New Zealand’s swimming history.”
“I’m mourning his passing today,” Loader said.
Laing developed Loader from a raw youngster to Olympic champion.
The young man with the powerful build and hesitant and shy manner won the 200m butterfly silver at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.
With four more years tutelage under Laing, he captured the 200m and 400m freestyle golds at the Olympics in Atlanta, New Zealand’s biggest moments in Olympic swimming.
Loader was first coached by his father before Laing took over and guided him to world success.
“He was instrumental in my success,” Loader said. “I enjoyed all the time I had with him and hold him in high regard for the way he treated me.”
“His passing is very sad for me and emotional.”
Loader last saw Laing when he visited him in hospital just before last month’s Olympics.
Although Laing was then very ill, the two men chatted about New Zealand’s Olympic prospects and New Zealand’s swimming potential.
“He was still interested in swimming and the Olympics,”
Swimming New Zealand president Murray Coulter described Laing as an “iconic figure in our sport and obviously our most successful coach ever in terms of Olympic medals”.
“He gained a reputation around the world and dedicated a lifetime to our sport,” Coulter said in a statement.
“During more than four decades as a swim coach he not only guided great swimmers to the top of their sport but also encouraged and guided hundreds and thousands of young people into this sport.”
Coulter said Laing aimed to develop all of his swimmers not just to be fast in a swimming pool but to be good citizens.
“This he achieved and gained great respect from all his charges who knew and acknowledged him always as Mr Laing.”
“Swimming New Zealand and all swimmers in the country pass on their deepest sympathies to the Laing family.”