4 April 2024

He’s leaving Canberra, but Gary Stutsel remains a local swimming hero

| Marg Wade
two men standing near an Olympic pool

Gary Stutsel, right, with his 10 gold medals for all 10 events in the Great Barrier Reef Masters Games in 2019. He set new records in all 10 events. He is pictured with fellow Molonglo Water Dragons swimming buddy John Collis, who won one gold and five silver medals in the same games. Photos: Supplied.

Gold medal swimmer Gary Stutsel, 85, of Turner, is about to dive into a new life chapter as he leaves Canberra for warmer climes. Gary’s swimming record is more than impressive, and his contribution to the local swimming scene will be sorely missed.

Gary has been an active participant, treasurer and committee member of Canberra Masters Swimming Club, Molonglo Water Dragons, since moving to Canberra from Sydney in 2008.

Gary’s decades of commitment to swimming, locally, nationally and internationally is outstanding. He established Masters Swimming Australia, becoming its first national secretary, and was a co-founder of International Masters Swimming, acting as president for 13 years.

Fiercely competitive from his first race at 13, Gary had his heart set on competing in the Olympic Games. An injured knee in a car accident dashed his hopes of qualifying for the 1960 games. Disappointed but undeterred, Gary’s passion led him to continue enjoying an outstanding swimming career.

Gary Stutsel, diving into the pool.

Gary Stutsel, in action.

“I don’t have a list or tally of medals or events, but they started in 1952 when I won my school’s under-14 championship. They continued to accumulate in open competition until I was about 24 (1963) and included district and state. Perhaps the highlights were Australian Universities 200-metre breaststroke champion (1957) and 3rd in the Australian Open 100-metre breaststroke championship and Olympic trials in 1960,” Gary said.

“Then, there was a period of water polo. Between 1969 and 1975, I swam with great success with various men’s clubs in a number of competitions until 1975, when I and others formed what has become Masters Swimming Australia, where I had continued success at state, national and international levels.”

More recently, in 2019, at age 80, Gary was ‘Male Swimmer of the Meet’ at the Great Barrier Reef Masters Games after winning 10 gold medals from 10 swims, all records.

Among his credits, Gary organised the first Pan Pac Masters Swimming Championships in Sydney in 1981. He was instrumental in drafting international rules for FINA Masters Swimming, Water Polo and Diving, and was also an international referee.

Gary’s efforts saw him awarded him an OAM in 1986, life membership of Masters Swimming Australia and Masters Swimming NSW, and he became an honouree in the International Masters Swimming Hall of Fame for his contribution to Australian Masters Swimming and swimming internationally.

Audrey and Gary Stutsel

Audrey and Gary Stutsel are soon heading to warmer climes.

Molonglo Water Dragons Club president David Specker appreciated Gary’s contribution to the club over the last 16 years. During this time, “Gary has put in consistent and major effort, typically behind the scenes, to support our club and members in a very selfless manner, as well as figuring prominently in the many swim meet events participated in.”

Throughout all this, Gary has been supported by his wife, Audrey.

“Audrey has been a qualified events marshal at swim meets in the ACT and NSW but is not a swimmer. However, without her support, none of the above would have been possible.”

Together, they look forward to a new life in Brisbane and being closer to family.

Humble when speaking of his achievements, Gary says swimming is important in keeping him fit and active.

“While I find swimming takes my mind off everything else and is very relaxing, I need a challenge to keep me going.”

Original Article published by Marg Wade on Riotact.

Weekly Wrap

Canberra is renowned for its restaurants, bars, arts and culture. If you want to know what's going on in and around the nation's capital, sign up for our weekly newsletter and have all the best of the Canberra community delivered free to your inbox.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.