Home » David Wilkie ‘one of Britain’s greatest ever’ – Duncan Goodhew

David Wilkie ‘one of Britain’s greatest ever’ – Duncan Goodhew

David Wilkie was an “extraordinary talent” and “one of Britain’s greatest ever athletes”, says fellow Olympic gold medallist Duncan Goodhew.

Wilkie, who has died at the age of 70, won Olympic gold in the 200m breaststroke at the Montreal Games in 1976.

The Scot beat his great rival John Hencken and lowered the American’s world record by over three seconds.

Goodhew, who topped the podium in the 100m breaststroke at the Moscow Games four years later, told BBC Scotland: “To me he is probably one of the greatest, if not the greatest, swimmer that we have ever had in this country.

“He was the consummate competitor, he swam from the back, you always knew he was going to chew you down and spit you out at the end, he was really tough on the way back and very mentally strong.

“In 1976, when he won his historic gold medal, he also was the best in the world at the 200IM [individual medley], which wasn’t for a number of different reasons in the 1976 Olympic Games.

“Had it been in there he would have undoubtedly won the gold medal and shattered the world record at that distance as well, giving him two gold medals in absolutely extraordinary style and those two gold medals would stand up against most gold medal tallies today.”

While that Olympic gold was the highlight, Wilkie racked up numerous major medals in his relatively short elite level career.

He won two Olympic silvers – one of them also being in 1976 – as well as multiple world, European and Commonwealth golds.

Wilkie retired at the age of 22, just one month after the Montreal Games.

Had he carried on competing, Goodhew is in no doubt he “would have won many. many more medals”.

He added: “You couldn’t make a living while you swam and to do the kind of training through your 20s that was required back then and also make a living was impossible.

“I came up on his coattails, I was the little puppy nipping at his heels and so we got to know each other as competitors and then became quite friendly after the Olympic Games.

“He started, in train, my success, Adrian Moorhouse [1988 Olympic gold medallist], Nick Gillingham [1988 Olympic silver medallist] and the list goes on and on. Yes, there had been Anita Lonsbrough [1960 Olympic gold medallist] before him but he was the first man for a very long time to achieve what he achieved.

“We haven’t seen a breaststroker as talented as he was until we had Adam Peaty turn up on the scene and I have little doubt Peaty probably wouldn’t have been around if it hadn’t been for David being a trailblazer.”