A pioneer of the Australian crawl style of freestyle and of the technique of side-breathing, Healy emerged as a force in Australian swimming in 1905 when he won both state and Australasian championship at 110 yards freestyle, the latter in a time which equalled the world record. After retaining the Australasian championship in 1906 he was one of just five Australians chosen to travel to Athens. After taking bronze in Athens he went on to tour Europe, winning the championships of England and Germany. Australasian champion in the 110 yards freestyle from 1908 to 1910, a lack of funds caused him to miss the 1908 London Games.
Healy’s performances in 1912 meant that he was chosen for the combined Australasian team for Stockholm and was centrally involved in one of the controversies of the Games. An error by the team management of the US team meant that the US contingent missed the semi-finals of the 100m freestyle. Healy argued on behalf of the Americans and assisted in their successful appeal to be able to swim an extra qualification race. The Australian finished second in the final behind American Duke Kahanamoku, the winner of the additional race. Healy set a world record in his heat of the 400m freestyle but finished fourth in the final as others smashed his world mark. He rounded off his Olympic career by providing the lead-off leg for the victorious Australasian squad in the 4 x 200m freestyle relay. After a European tour, in which he broke the world record for the 220 yards freestyle, Healy retired.
An accomplished surfer and water polo player, Healy was a founder member of the Manly Surf Club and was awarded a medal from the Royal Humane Society for his role in saving many lives in the waters around Manly. In 1915 Healy volunteered for service with the Australian Defence Force and, after service in Egypt and France, was sent to England to officer training. Leading his men into battle for the first time, he was killed attempting to storm the machine-gun defended German stronghold at Mont St Quentin. He is the only Australian gold medallist to have been killed in action. Some sources claim he is the brother of Alfred Healey, but this is likely not correct. His will mentions a brother, Harold, but has no mention of Alfred.
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