Kieren Perkins has hailed John Konrads as an inspiration, an Australian sporting great who conquered the world in the pool after emigrating from Latvia as a young boy unable to swim.
Konrads, who died on Sunday at the age of 78, dominated world swimming as a teenager in the late 1950s and early 1960s, winning the 1500m freestyle at the 1960 Rome Olympics among a haul of three medals at the Games.
Across a decorated career, Konrads set 26 individual freestyle world records between the 200m and 1500m events before he turned 15.
He inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 1985.
Dual Olympic gold medallist Perkins, who is now Swimming Australia's president, remains in awe of Konrads' feats.
Perkins, who won gold in the 1500m at the Barcelona and Atlanta Olympics, says Konrads played a crucial role in his own career.
"John's story is quite amazing, it's one of resilience and perseverance," Perkins said.
"To arrive in Australia as a young boy from Latvia who couldn't swim, to then attend an Olympic Games as a 14-year-old only a few years later is remarkable.
"The 1500m race obviously holds a very special place in my heart and I was lucky to have role models and mentors like John shine a light on this event for Australia - his feats helped cement it as an iconic event for our country at every Olympics."
Born in Riga, Latvia, Konrads emigrated with his parents Janis and Elza, grandmother, and sisters Eve and Ilsa in August 1944, initially to Germany.
Living in Germany until 1949, their application to immigrate to the United States was refused on account of the large size of the family before Australia accepted them.
They were relocated to a camp at Uranquinty, 15km south of Wagga Wagga in the Riverina region of NSW.
Konrads suffered polio as a child and his father thought swimming would be of therapeutic benefit.
The family relocated to Sydney when he was 11 and he caught the attention of famed Australian swim mentor Don Talbot, who was working as an assistant coach while teaching at Sydney's Revesby Primary School, where Konrads and his sister Ilsa were pupils.
The Konrad siblings were at their record-breaking best in 1958, the year John won three gold medals at the Empire and Commonwealth Games in Cardiff.
In 1959, John won every Australian freestyle title.
His Olympic 1500m victory in 1960, beating out his boyhood idol Murray Rose, became part of a great Australian legacy in the event, following the triumphs of Andrew "Boy" Charlton (1924) and Rose (1956).
After retirement, Konrads entered the world of swim coaching before becoming the Australasian director of cosmetics giant L'Oreal.
Australian Olympic Committee president John Coates praised Konrads' contribution after his swimming career.
"It's extraordinary to think he smashed those world records aged only 15, but like so many Olympians, he grew into a champion away from sport," said Coates.
"Following his time as a coach, he enjoyed considerable success in the business world, inspired other Olympians to think about life after sport and was prominent in raising awareness of bipolar disorder, an affliction he suffered."
Coates noted Konrads made significant contributions for Brisbane's bid for the 1992 Olympics, Melbourne's bid for 1996 and ultimately Sydney's successful bid for 2000.
"Once an Olympian, always an Olympian. That was John Konrads. My sincere condolences to John's wife Mikki, sister Ilsa and the entire Konrads family."