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David Theile

Biographical information

Medals OG
Gold 2
Silver 1
Bronze 0
Total 3
TypeCompeted in Olympic Games
Full nameDavid Egmont•Theile
Used nameDavid•Theile
Born17 January 1938 in Maryborough, Queensland (AUS)
Measurements190 cm
NOC Australia


Born to a family of medical doctors, David Theile learned to swim at the age of five, and became one of the world’s best backstrokers by the later 1950s. Theile won his first Australian title in the 110 yd backstroke in 1955, defending that title in 1956 and also won the Australian Olympic trials with a world record of 1:02.9 to establish himself as a favorite for 100 backstroke gold at the 1956 Olympics.

His closest rival at the Olympics was teammate John Monckton. Theile had a unique turn which seemed to help him gain time on his opponents but was of questionable legality. He had been given an unofficial warning by the judges for using this turn in the heats and decided to use a more orthodox method in the semis. In the final Thiele reverted to his original technique, using it to good effect to defeat Monckton by a second to win the Olympic title in a world record 1:02.2.

After the Olympics, Theile continued competing, but after being disqualified from the Queensland state championships in 1957 due to his turn technique, he retired from sports to concentrate on his medical studies at the University of Queensland, but made a brief comeback in 1960 to defend his Olympic title. Although Theile had won his third Australian title in 1960, at Rome, he was considered a longshot for gold, the 100 back favorite role going to world record holder Monckton, but in the Olympic final, Monckton misjudged the turn and broke a finger as he smashed into the wall, and Theile won gold comfortably ahead of two Americans Frank McKinney and Bob Bennett. A day after his backstroke victory, Theile led the Australian medley relay team to a silver medal.

Theile retired from sports for good after his second Olympics and graduated from the University of Queensland with a medical degree in 1962. After post-graduate training as a Surgical Registrar at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, Theile was awarded a fellowship of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons in 1967. After obtaining further experience in the United Kingdom, Theile entered private practice as a general surgeon in Brisbane in 1974, and was appointed to the visiting staff of the Princess Alexandra Hospital.

Over the succeeding 25 years, Theile was made a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, an Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, and an Honorary Fellow of the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists. From 1981, Theile held a variety of positions with the Royal Australian College of Surgeons, culminating in the presidency between 1993-95, and served on the Australian Medical Workforce Advisory Committee.

Theile chaired the Pacific Islands Project for AusAid and became Chairman of the Division of Surgery at the Princess Alexandra Hospital in 2000, while in 2006 he was named its Clinical Chief Executive Officer, and in 2008 he was appointed Chief Executive Officer of the Metro South District of Queensland Health. Theile was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1968 and the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 1985.

Personal Bests: 100 m backstroke – 1:01.9 (1960).


Games Discipline (Sport) / Event NOC / Team Pos Medal As
1956 Summer Olympics Swimming (Aquatics) AUS David Theile
100 metres Backstroke, Men (Olympic) 1 Gold
1960 Summer Olympics Swimming (Aquatics) AUS David Theile
100 metres Backstroke, Men (Olympic) 1 Gold
4 × 100 metres Medley Relay, Men (Olympic) Australia 2 Silver

Olympic Records

Records may have been broken subsequently during the same competition.
Games Date Sport Event Phase Mark Pos
1956 Summer Olympics 6 December 1956 Swimming (Aquatics) 100 metres Backstroke, Men Final 1:02.2 1
1960 Summer Olympics 31 August 1960 Swimming (Aquatics) 100 metres Backstroke, Men Final 1:01.9 1

Special Notes