Harold Hardwick is now remembered as an Olympic swimmer and as the boxer who knocked out Les Darcy’s teeth.
Born in Sydney’s Balmain in 1888, Harold Hampton Hardwick learned to box and swim at early age. By the time he left the Fort Street School, he’d won an under-16 NSW swimming championship, played Rugby Union with his school’s first XV and captained the school’s lifesaving team that won the state championship.
By 1910, he had won several NSW swimming championships.
In 1911, he won the 100 yards freestyle race and the heavyweight boxing title at the Festival of Empire (a forerunner of the modern Commonwealth Games) in London. While in England, he tried teaching the crawl stroke to English swimmers. He was acclaimed as the ‘Sportsman of Australia’ for 1911.
At the 1912 Stockholm Olympics, he won a gold medal with the Australasian relay team and won bronze medals in the 400 metres and 1,500 metres freestyle. There were no boxing events at that Olympic Games.
Back in Australia, Hardwick concentrated on boxing, winning the 1914 NSW amateur heavyweight boxing title. From 1915, he boxed professionally. When he fought Les Darcy in 1916, Darcy won by a knockout.
In 1917, Hardwick joined the Sportsman’s Battalion of the AIF and served in Egypt and the Middle East. At the 1919 Inter-Allied Games in France, he swam in Australia’s winning 800 metre relay team, came second in the 1,500 metres and third in the individual 800 metres. He also won the heavyweight boxing division of the Inter-Theatre of War Boxing Tournament in England and was presented with a cup for being judged the ‘Ideal Sportsman’ by his fellow competitors.
Though trained as an accountant, Hardwick was working as a supervisor of swimming with the NSW Education Department by 1920 and helping Fanny Durack train for the 1920 Olympics. Although his professional boxing career had ended in 1916, the NSW Amateur Swimming Association refused to re-instate Hardwick as an amateur swimmer.
In 1938, while chief swimming instructor for the NSW Education Department, Hardwick compiled a book titled Swimming: A Handbook of Instruction for Public School Teachers. He continued to work for the Department and had become Deputy Director of Physical Education before retiring in 1953.
In 1949, he became Foundation President of the Union of Old Swimmers.
Hardwick died in 1959.
The Harold Hardwick Memorial trophy is awarded annually to the winner of the NSW 100 metres schoolboys’ title ‘in memory of a great sportsman, soldier and gentleman’.