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The big fish returns

Michael Klim (OW1994) is a three-time Olympian, multi-time world champion and 21-time world record holder, and soon you can add Hall-of-Famer to that list. Originally announced in 2020, his induction into the International Swimming Hall of Fame was delayed because of COVID and is now slated for October this year.

In 1995, at only 18 years of age, Michael Klim was named Australian Swimming Rookie of the Year as he embarked on a glittering professional career that would see him become an Australian swimming icon. He announced himself on the world stage after winning a bronze medal in his first Olympic appearance in the 1996 Atlanta Games and continued his rise the following year when he broke the world record in the 100m butterfly. He was also awarded the World Swimmer of the Year.

At the 1998 FINA World Championships in Perth, Michael’s record haul of seven medals in seven events, including four gold, is still regarded as one of the most outstanding performances by an Australian at an international swim meet. Not looking to slow down, however, he backed this performance up in the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur, where again he won seven medals, including four gold, on his way to another Australian Swimmer of the Year award in 1998.

The 2000 Sydney Olympic Games saw Michael star. Often regarded as the best relay swimmer of all time, he was instrumental in Australia’s 4 x 100m relay victory, unleashing a world record lead off swim of 48.18 seconds to win his first gold on the first night. The pictures of Michael playing air guitar – after the previously undefeated American team boasted about smashing their opponents like the stringed instruments – were beamed around the world and are forever stamped in Australian Olympic folklore. Three days later, Michael was part of the 4×200m freestyle relay, which set another world record (7:07.05) and left the opposition over five seconds in arrears on its way to victory. He would go on to score two more silver medals at a record breaking Olympics for the Australian Swim Team.

After a two-year break due to injury, Michael returned to the pool during the 2004 Athens Games as one of only three triple Olympians in the squad and won his sixth medal as part of the 4x200m freestyle relay team. He continued his spectacular comeback at the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games where he won gold in the men’s 4x100m medley relay, silver in the 4x100m freestyle relay and 100m butterfly and bronze in the 50m butterfly.

However, Michael’s golden success was not limited to the pool. He founded his own skincare company, Milk and Co, becoming one of the most sought-after keynote speakers on the public speaking circuit and opening two highly successful KLIMSWIM centres and Learn to Swim programs in Melbourne. In 2021, Michael, along with his sister Anna (OW1992), returned to Wesley to open their newest KLIMSWIM centre in the St Kilda Road Campus pool. As Michael said, ‘It’s such a great pleasure to open our new KLIMSWIM centre and be able to pass on the skills of swimming and water safety to the next generation.’

At the first clinic, some of the state’s most exciting up-and-coming swimmers enjoyed learning a few things from one of Australia’s most recognisable former Olympians; many were inspired by both his success as an elite athlete and his humility.

There’s always a place at Wesley for our OWs, and it’s fantastic to see them remain connected with the community. As Michael says, ‘For my sister and I, it’s extra special to come back!’

The big fish has returned to the small pond, but not before conquering all of the deepest ocean.

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Michael Klim visits the Wesley pool for his first KLIMSWIM swimming school
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