Raised in Rockhampton, Queensland, Duncan Armstrong’s first international swimming success came at the 1986 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, where he a won a gold medal in the 200 metres freestyle. Two years later Armstrong entered the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games as the 25th ranked swimmer over 200 metres, but exceeded expectations and made the final. Coach Laurie Lawrence devised a strategy for Armstrong to swim close to the 100 metre record holder, American Matt Biondi, who was racing in the adjacent lane. Armstrong effectively rode on Biondi’s wake then stormed home in the last fifty metres to claim the gold in world record time. He also won silver in the 400 metre event, posting a time five seconds faster than his previous best.
Armstrong won Australia’s only swimming gold medal in Seoul and one of only three overall. His performance was an inspirational morale booster for the Australian Olympic team.