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The Hawke's Bay-Poverty Bay swimming fraternity is in mourning following the death of coaching legend Bert Cotterill.
New Zealand's first fulltime professional swimming coach, Mr Cotterill died suddenly in Waikato Hospital on Sunday night. He was aged 75.
"We're all totally devastated. He was my best mate and my mentor in sports administration ... we were a team for seven years," HBPB Swimming president Keith Bone said.
With his wife, Pam, Mr Cotterill taught thousands of youngsters to swim during a 66-year involvement in the sport.
"He was a very humble man. Youngsters he taught to swim not only received swimming skills, but lifeskills for living," Mr Bone said.
When Mr Cotterill, a foundation member of the Napier Aquahawks club, was awarded life membership of Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) last year, he completed the first father-and-son duo to be awarded the honour. His late father Joe was a member of the Wanganui East club when he became a SNZ life member.
In 2007, he received a Service Honours Award in recognition of his then 65-year contribution to swimming.
A former head of physical education at Colenso High School, Mr Cotterill started swimming with the Wanganui East club in 1942 and also represented the Karori and Heretaunga clubs. He was a five-time winner of the New Zealand three-mile championship from 1954 to 1958.
On his arrival in Hawke's Bay he took up a teacher-coaching role with the Te Awa club, which he held from 1960-1966. He was the Greendale club's chairman and coach from 1966-1972.
During the 1985-86 summer, Mr Cotterill had a stint as centre manager and coach at Sydney's Carlile club.
From 1991-2000 he was the New Zealand Swimming Federation's director of coaching and education. From 2000 until his retirement in 2007, Mr Cotterill was assistant coach at Gisborne's Enterprise club.
During a period of 20 years, he coached three Kiwi swimmers at three Olympics - Sandra Whittleston of Napier in Mexico in 1968, John Coutts of Hastings in Montreal in 1976 and Sharron Musson of Napier in Seoul in 1988.
His numerous official roles over the years included coaching and managing Commonwealth and Olympic Games teams, a four-year stint as chief examiner for the New Zealand Swimming Coaches Association from 1980-1984, treasurer of the same association during that period, and president and secretary-manager of the same association. In 1977, he was named New Zealand Coach of the Year.
Mr Cotterill was the author of the unit standards for the popular Lotto Learn to Swim programme.
In recent years, he enjoyed playing golf and last month was still playing to his 18 handicap.
He is survived by his wife Pam, six children and 12 grandchildren. A service to celebrate his life will be held at the Taradale Club on Friday.