Former British Olympic swimming champion, David Wilkie, dies aged 70

Wilkie won the gold medal for 200m breastroke at the 1976 Olympics capping off a short but brilliant career

Michael Jones
Wednesday 22 May 2024 20:51 BST
(Getty Images)

British Olympic swimming champion David Wilkie has died at the age of 70 his family have announced.

The Scot, who won 200m breastroke gold for Great Britain during the 1976 Montreal games, suffered from cancer but died peacefully on Wednesday morning.

Wilkie’s family said in a statement: “It is with great sadness that the family of David Wilkie MBE announce that he died peacefully surrounded by his family this morning, following his brave battle with cancer.”

Wilkie was born in Colombo, Sri Lanka in 1954 to Scottish parents. He won his first major swimming medal at the 1970 Commonwealth Games, claiming bronze for Scotland in Edinburgh. Two silver Olympic medals, three world titles and the aforementioned 1976 gold quickly followed for the swimming legend.

(Getty Images)

In 1973, he won his first Championship gold medal and, just two years later, took the top spot in both the 100m and 200m breastroke finals in Cali, Colombia earning him the British Sports Personality of the Year award.

Wilkie’s defining moment came in Montreal, with his Olympic triumph which saw him break the then world record by three seconds. He also came second in the 100m event in Canada.

In an astonishing move by today’s professional sporting standards, and at the height of his powers, Wilkie decided to retire just two months after becoming Olympic Champion at the age of 22. At the time he was unbeaten over 200m for four years and became the first British man to win Olympic gold in the pool in 68 years.

He was awarded an MBE in 1977 and is survived by his wife, Helen, and children, Natasha and Adam.

Adam Wilkie said: “My dad was a truly wonderful man, father, and husband. He achieved so much in his life and those that knew him will never forget his love for life, kindness, and wonderful sense of humour.”

The former British Olympic swimmer Sharron Davies posted on X: “I am so sad to hear of the loss of Olympic champion superstar breaststroker, my first crush & definitely an inspiration, proud Scotsman David Wilkie who died earlier today, sleep tight old friend x.”

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