Duncan Laing died in Dunedin this morning.
He is best known as the coach of of double Olympic gold medal swimmer Danyon Loader, but he also taught many thousands of chidlren to swim, among whom was my daughter.
I can see him now, walking around Moana Pool, dressed in immaculately pressed walk shorts and polo shirt, earning both respect and affection from his pupils.
Duncan was a big man but also a gentle man who always emphasised water safety.
One of the first things he taught chidlren was to roll on to their backs and float. Once they’d mastered that in the learners’ pool he marched them through to the diving well to give them the confidence they’d need to do it if ever they got into deep water.
He was very patient with reluctant swimmers. One of his tricks was to give them a rope to hold on to. He’d tow them to get them started then once they were kicking under their own steam he dropped the rope without them knowing they were on their own. By the time they realised he wasn’t on the other end of the rope they realised they could float without it.
TV3 has a tribute here.