Aussie swim coach Rodgers' heart surgery

Veteran Australian swimming coach John 'JR' Rodgers (C) is recovering well after open heart surgery.
Veteran Australian swimming coach John 'JR' Rodgers (C) is recovering well after open heart surgery.

Legendary Australian swim coach John "JR" Rodgers is on track for a full recovery after undergoing major open heart surgery on a 10cm tear in his aorta.

The 81-year-old Noosa-based Olympic team coach is lucky to be alive after the discovery of the tear, and he will watch open water swimming world championships in Gwangju, South Korea from his hospital bed on Queensland's Sunshine Coast.

Rodgers, having guided some of Australia's best to great heights at Olympics and world championships, suffered a heart episode while swimming three weeks ago at Noosa Aquatic Centre.

Regarded as one of the fittest men for his age, he scrambled to the side of the pool and alerted lifeguards, before showering and driving himself to Noosa Hospital.

Once assessed, he was transported to Kawana University Hospital for immediate testing , where doctors discovered the torn aorta.

After open heart surgery, Rodgers spent four days in an induced coma, his family and friends by his side.

Rodgers' business partner - fellow coach, former pupil and dual Olympian Graeme Brewer - revealed the man so affectionately know around the coaching world as "JR" would be released from hospital next week and would be set to coach again.

"I have to admit it was touch and go for the old boy but, somehow, some way, he managed to survive this ordeal. The doctors are amazed really ... it is somewhat of a miracle," said Brewer, who had been JR's right hand man for many years.

"It just wasn't his time ... but all of us who know JR, it probably doesn't come as any surprise - a case of where there's a will, there's a way.

"He is already up on the cycle and walking with the aid of a stick. He's got a long way to go. We just have to insist he starts to eat to build himself up again."

Australian Associated Press