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Julian Bolling

From Openwaterpedia

Julian Bolling is a three-time Olympic swimmer who organizes two open water swims in Sri Lanka and started Swim Lanka.

Bolling is the only Sri Lankan swimmer known to have participated in three Olympic games, first at Los Angeles (USA) in 1984, then at Seoul (South Korea) in 1988, and finally at Barcelona (Spain) in 1992. He also won 15 (fifteen) Gold Medals. This happened over a decade ago for Sri Lanka, at four separate SAF Games - in 1984, 1987, 1989 and 1991.

Julian first swam for Royal College, Colombo from 1977 to 1982 and was coached by E. G. A. Wilson, a famous national record holder in the 100 meters Back Stroke. From 1982, his mother, Tara Bolling, (Sri Lanka's 'Wonder Star' and women's champion of the fifties and early sixties, who represented Sri Lanka at the Commonwealth Games held in Cardiff (Wales) in 1958), took over the solemn task of disciplining and training her son to become a 'golden swimmer'. Julian was taught to put God first, others second and himself last, in everything.

Julian also recalls 1979 as a memorable year, when he and his two elder brothers David and Jeremy, represented Sri Lanka for the first time in the Indo-Sri Lanka- Bangladesh Swimming Triangular Meet. In fact, David Bolling won the Gold Medal in the 1500 meters Free-Style and Julian came in second, to win the Silver Medal. Thereafter, Julian took over these events and represented the country in the 1986 Asian Games, winning many Gold Medals and establishing Games Records in the 400 and 1500 meters Free style and Individual Medley.

Since obtaining a Marketing Degree from the University of Clarion, Pennsylvania (USA), Julian returned to Sri Lanka in 1992 and worked at Nestles' Limited, Colombo - but soon preferred to abandon an office desk and 'take to the waters', to join his mother Tara and father Ralph, who had launched out the Rainbow Aquatic Club. Later, the Rainbow Swimming Academy was set-up with his brother David, with the sole aim of teaching children and adults to swim and save 'souls' from drowning! They have also coached with great success, many who desired to compete in local and foreign swimming meets.

After the shattering tsunami in December 2004, a retired British army officer Tony Ballard and his concerned wife Petronella, set out to the Southern fishing villages that had been ravaged by the swirling waters, to provide them with essential supplies.

However they were soon made to realize that most people including children could not swim. They immediately needed the services of a competent coach who could teach people the basics of swimming. Julian Bolling was contacted and despite his other heavy commitments in Colombo, he had no hesitation in helping out. Tony and Petronella were virtually 'blown off their feet' when they asked "When do we start?" and Julian replied "Today!" - Together they worked out a programme, now named 'Swim-Lanka' (, which has 32 local Instructors working with 26 'wading pools' in various coastal communities.

As petronella said, "We've all seen the tears, the horror, the immense pain." Yes, Julian Bolling has been a vital link and played an important part in putting love, smiles and happiness back into these peoples' lives - and using 'Swim-Lanka' to give them a future, when life seemed bleak and frightful.

With the 10th - South Asian Games being staged in Colombo from 18th to 28th August, at the Sugathadasa Stadium, Julian has been called to assist in the planning and preparations of the 'swim scene' and he has 'dived' right into it, to give the best of his time, knowledge, experience and ability for the country and for his best-loved sport - swimming!!! Deshabandu Julian will always be a 'golden legend' in the history of Sri Lanka sports.

Reflecting on his experience at the Olympics, Julian says, “The 84’ Olympics was the first of the 3 Olympics I went to, but the nice thing was we never planned on it, and it suddenly came. It was a lot of pride involved because you are at the Olympics, there is only a few thousand athletes from around the world that gather so you do feel special, but also on a lighter note, I was like a little fish in a big pond. We can talk about achievements in terms of success but I think the nicest thing is the Olympic motto says that the struggle is more important than the victory and I sure did struggle through my career, but today as a swimming coach I can see the reason why I went through what I went through, so that I can relate to kids if they do or are in a similar situation I can sort of empathize with them.

We as athletes do struggle like anyone else, even though we have Jesus in our lives I think we are not perfect we have our struggles, sometimes we falter. But the key is to look to Jesus and not to us because I think He is perfect, He will lead you, but also learn that you don’t have to be perfect to have a relationship with God.

There is a thing called eternal life and we cannot achieve it on our own. We need God’s help and God has given that answer through his son Jesus. He died for us so that we can have eternal life. To me it is not simply trying to do good but to accept the good deed done by Jesus and accept him into your life and from there on it is home.

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