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Murray Rose, Aussie Swimmer AUGUST 14, 1961

It was a promotional stunt, the 1998 freestyle race between the
Australian Olympic champion from 1956 and '60 and his country's
best medal hope in 2000, but Iain Murray Rose had never settled
for second, not even in an exhibition. Rose climbed onto the
starting block, bent forward on 59-year-old knees and dived into
the Sydney International Aquatic Centre pool, where he soundly
beat Ian Thorpe--15 at the time--in a 100-meter race viewed by a
national TV audience in Australia. "I had a 15-second head
start," admits Rose.

At the 1956 Melbourne Olympics the victorious Rose, then 17, as
Thorpe is now, embraced Japan's Tsuyoshi Yamanaka after the
pair's one-two finish in the 400-meter freestyle final. The
gesture, which Olympic historian Bud Greenspan would call "proof
that [World War II] was finally over," was nearly as radical as
Rose's faith in sports psychologists and his diet, which
included sea vegetables and millet seeds. Using a broken rhythm
kick, a technique that other distance swimmers would come to
mimic, Rose also won gold in the 1,500 free and the 4x200 free
relay. The Seaweed Streak, as meat-loving Aussies called him,
would successfully defend his 400 title in Rome in '60 and add a
silver and a bronze to his medal collection.

Rose took his golden good looks to California, where as a
student-athlete at USC he caught an acting bug that led to a few
minor roles. While filming Ride the Wild Surf (starring Tab
Hunter) in Hawaii, he missed competing in the Australian national
championships--a prerequisite for Olympic participation. In Tokyo
in 1964, despite having set a 1,500 world record earlier that
year, he ended up doing commentary for NBC. "It was torture to
watch," says Rose. "but I had to keep my hand in the Olympic

Six years ago Murray and his wife, Jodi, a ballet dancer, and
their now 10-year-old son, Trevor, moved from Los Angeles--where
his daughter, Somerset, 36, and her four-year-old daughter, Tess,
live--to the seaside Sydney suburb of Double Bay, where Murray had
learned to swim as a boy. This month Rose, 61, who works as a
sports-marketing executive, will be in Sydney to support the
strongest Australian swim squad since he, Dawn Fraser and others
ruled the pool 44 years ago. Though Rose says he hopes to stay
"behind the scenes," young Australian swimmers traveling down
Murray Rose Avenue will be unable to escape the legend whose 1956
performance made him the youngest triple gold medalist in any
sport in the history of the Games. Though Thorpe is expected to
win three as well, Rose will remain, as always, first.

--Kelley King



His embrace of a Japanese rival was called "proof that [World
War II] was finally over."