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Duncan Goodhew

Duncan Alexander Goodhew MBE won Olympic gold and bronze medals for Great Britain at the 1980 Summer Olympics and was awarded the MBE in 1983 for services to sport. He overcame the trauma of an accident when he was 10 that caused him to lose his hair, triumphing over adversity by excelling in the pool.

Duncan Goodhew

Image Source: https://twitter.com/duncan_goodhew

Early life

Born on 27th May 1957 in Marylebone, Duncan was found to have dyslexia when he was a child. He said later that this made his school days difficult, as he felt everyone thought he was "stupid". When he was 10, he fell 18 feet from a tree and consequently lost all his hair due to alopecia, which caused people to stare at him. He described it as "childhood misery".

Ironically, this spurred him on into becoming a better swimmer, as he acquired a desire to overcome his disadvantages and aspired to the Olympic dream. He made his Olympic debut in 1976, while still a student at Millfield School, finishing seventh in the 100 metres breaststroke.



His career went from strength to strength. In 1978, he became the GB and England Swimming Team captain - a role he held until 1980. He won silver medals in the individual breaststroke and medley relay at the 1978 Commonwealth Games. In the same year, he won a bronze medal in the medley relay and finished fourth in the individual event at the World Championships.

Duncan prepared for the 1980 Moscow Olympics by training at an American university under the famous coach, David Haller. While there, Duncan also completed a degree in business management. All his hard work paid off, as he won the gold medal in the 100 metres breaststroke and the bronze medal in the medley relay.

Afterwards, he said swimming had allowed him to face his dyslexia. His life had been far different from the one he would have led without it - in particular going to university in the US. In 13 strokes, taking 13 seconds, people were staring at him not because he was bald but because he had won an Olympic gold medal.



After receiving an MBE in 1983, Duncan went on with his charity work - including becoming president of the BT Swimathon in 1988, which raised millions of pounds for worthy causes. He also visited terminally ill cancer patients in hospital.

Duncan actively encourages school children to learn to swim, saying it makes them face their fears, building their confidence and self-esteem, while being a source of great fun. He tells pupils that without the ability to swim, they won't be able to take part in any water sports and they will miss out on enjoying the sea on holiday. He says the best way to learn is to relax and enjoy it, rather than feeling scared and fighting the water.

Duncan is a motivational speaker who assists business teams in overcoming obstacles to achieve success. He has also written his autobiography, Sink or Swim, describing his own challenges and how he overcame them.

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