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Australian Bobby Hurley has come a long way since his competitive swimming days and his list of achievements is impressive. Not only is he a former world record holder in the short-course 50-metre backstroke and the 2012 World Champion, but he also participated in five FINA World Championships and has two golds, one silver, and two bronze medals under his belt. These days Bobby is the Director of Swimming at Tanglin Trust School with a lot of sporting wisdom to share.

What’s your story?

I grew up in Wollongong, a small town on the beach, near the south of Sydney. In Australia, everybody grows up learning to swim because of all the water around and backyard swimming pools. I learned to swim at around five years old and remember doing my first competitions when I was about seven or eight because I was bored just sitting at the pool. By nine, I was really passionate about the sport, and it turned out that I was a pretty fast swimmer.

“You make sure the training is fun and people keep coming back”

What do you think makes you a successful swimmer?

There are some physical traits that help. I have very long limbs and I’m hypermobile so I’m really flexible. This helps to get an increased range of motion. But more than that, having a passion for swimming is important because it’s such an individual sport most of the time. You need to have that internal motivation and drive to keep pushing yourself to achieve.

Why coaching? 

In 2016, one of my good friends, Chad le Clos, approached me during a swimming competition in Singapore. Chad was the Olympic champion back in 2012, famously beating Michael Phelps on the last stroke of the 200m Butterfly race. He asked me to be his coach and travel with him, so three months later I joined Chad in Cape Town. Cameron Van der Burgh, another world record holder, was there too so I was pretty much coaching South Africa’s two greatest swimmers. This lasted a year which made me think that I was pretty good and could make a career out of it!

How did you move from coaching professional swimmers to coaching children?

The swimming and coaching scene is obviously strong in Australia and I wanted to see if I could make it in Sydney. I went from coaching two Olympic champions and world record holders to overseeing a Learn-to-Swim programme at a small club with just a handful of competitive swimmers.

It was a big change but the way I coach swimmers and the conversations we have are the same as with the pro’s. You make sure the training is fun and people keep coming back. Before I knew it, my club became one of the top 10 clubs in New South Wales.

What plans do you have for Tanglin Trust’s swimming programme?

The new aquatic centre at the Tanglin Centenary Building helps to raise the level of performance and expectation throughout our programme. Coming from a performance background, I believe this centre is probably one of the best facilities in Singapore and Southeast Asia.

We have two really high-quality facilities that children can use from infant school to sixth form students – any swimmer, whether they’re just learning to swim, want to be a competitive swimmer, or are aiming for university scholarships. It’s about creating a pathway for every student, and it’s been really exciting for me to build the programme.

What’s made you the most proud recently?

We had two swimmers win multiple gold medals in the Singapore Nationals and four swimmers won medals overall in their age group. I’m thrilled to have had a positive impact on them and the programme in such a short time. 


Tanglin Trust School
 95 Portsdown Road, 139299