Queensland Sport Hall of Fame

Mr Brad Cooper

Bradford ("Brad") Paul Cooper was an Australian freestyle and backstroke swimmer of the 1970s, who won a gold medal in the 400m freestyle at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich. In that race he originally finished second by the smallest margin ever to decide an Olympic swimming final (one hundredth of a second), but was later awarded the gold medal after the victor, American Rick DeMont, an asthmatic, was disqualified for taking the banned stimulant ephedrine.

In 1970, at age 15, at the national open championships, Cooper came second in both the 100m and 200m backstroke, putting him briefly in contention for that year's Commonwealth Games team. Cooper then trained with Don Talbot and at the 1971 Australian Championships, won both the 100m and 200m backstroke, the latter in an Australian record time. He also came second in the 400 m freestyle behind fellow Talbot swimmer Graham Windeatt, surpassing the previous Australian record.

In January 1972, Cooper hit the headlines when he broke the 800m freestyle world record. Within a month, at the Australian Championships in Brisbane, he won the 400m and 1500m freestyle events and the 100m and 200m backstroke, showing versatility over a large range of distances. This included a world record in the 400m freestyle, while his 1500m freestyle time was only 0.6s outside the world record.

After the Olympics, Talbot left to become a coach in Canada, forcing Cooper to return to Brisbane to train with Harry Gallagher. In 1973, he was the Australian Champion in the 200m, 400m and 800m freestyle, and the 100m and 200m backstroke. However, he continued to switch coaches throughout the year, also training with Allan Wood and Tony Fraser. He went on to compete at the 1973 World Aquatics Championships in Belgrade, where media interest surrounded his 400m and 1500m freestyle races against DeMont. In the 400m, both broke the world record and broke the four minute barrier for the first time, with DeMont finishing ahead of Cooper. Cooper also finished behind DeMont in the 1500m, but the race was won by Australian Stephen Holland, who broke his own world record.

Cooper also won a silver medal as part of the 4200m freestyle relay. Cooper was then awarded a swimming scholarship to Miami University, but was unable to enrol as he had not finished his secondary education in Australia.

At the 1974 Commonwealth Games in Christchurch, he was upset in the 100m backstroke by fellow Australian Mark Tonelli and finished third, but set a new Australian record in the 200m backstroke to win gold. In the freestyle events, he managed silver in the 400m, three seconds outside his best and finished last in the 1500m freestyle, one minute slower than his best. He then won the 400m freestyle and 200m backstroke at the Australian Championships, before retiring.

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