Two Olympic gold medallists and a legendary coach were awarded Life Membership of Swimming Australia at its 111th Annual General Meeting last night.
Held virtually around the country, Sydney 2000 teammates and Olympic gold medallists Susie O’Neill AM and Chris Fydler OAM joined Dawn Fraser’s former coach, Harry Gallagher OAM, in receiving the prestigious acknowledgement.
A triple Olympian (1992, 1996, 2000) who is affectionally known as ‘Madame Butterfly’, O’Neill won gold medals at every major competition for her pet event – the 200m fly – and held the world record for two years between 2000 and 2002. Crowned the 1996 Female Olympian of the Year, she holds the record for achieving the most medals at Australian Championships, having won 35 long course national titles, and has the most international medals of any Australian female swimmer – tying with Ian Thorpe as the most prolific Australian medal winner.
A Sport Australia Hall of Fame Legend, O’Neill continues to give back to the community as an ambassador of the Fred Hollows Foundation and was recently appointed as the deputy Chef de Mission of the Australian Tokyo Olympic Games team.
Claiming gold as part of the iconic 4x100m men’s freestyle relay at the Sydney Olympics, Fydler represented Australia at three Olympic Games across his 11-year career and amassed more than 20 national championships, including five consecutive 100m freestyle titles.
With a true passion and love for the sport, Fydler has given years of service to the administration of swimming, having served on the Swimming Australia Board (2006-2010), the FINA Disciplinary Panel (2010-2017) and is currently still a member of the FINA Ethics Panel. In addition, he was named as Deputy Chef de Mission of the 2012 and 2016 Olympic teams. He continues to give back to the sport as the President of Swimming NSW and a director of the NSW Institute of Sport.
Gallagher’s dedication to swimming dates back to the late 1940s when by chance, he taught his comrades in the army, many of whom could not swim, how to save themselves. Since this fortuitous event, Gallagher went on to coach some of the biggest names in Australian swimming, including Fraser, Jon Henricks – who won gold in 1956 – Lorraine Crapp AM, Michael Wendon AM, Brad Cooper, and Lyn McClements. His overwhelming success saw him appointed Head Coach of the Australian team at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics.
Still regarded as one of the best sprint freestyle coaches in the world and with a desire to give back to the sport, Gallagher passionately penned many coaching books over the course of his 50-year career, passing on his knowledge and expertise. Gallagher was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1984 and was awarded the Order of Australia Medal in 1986. He is also recognised as both a Platinum and Master Coach by the Australian Swimming Coaches and Teachers Association.
Deputy Swimming Australia Board Chair, Tracy Stockwell OAM, congratulated the trio and said all were richly deserving of the award.
“Susie captured the hearts and minds of Australians over her 12-year career and her name is synonymous with the golden era of Australian swimming – our athletes are incredibly lucky to have her as the Deputy Chef de Mission leading into Tokyo,” Stockwell said.
“Chris has given a tremendous amount to the sport of swimming, not only as a former athlete but as a top administrator. We are indebted to the volunteers who give their time and energy to grow and improve swimming throughout the country, and Chris has certainly dedicated so much of his time since retiring to giving back to the sport.
“There’s no doubt swimming has benefited immensely from the professionalism and passion of the likes of Harry, who has provided our nation with many successful sporting heroes.
“The accolades of his swimmers speak for themselves and many coaches have been lucky enough to receive mentorship and guidance from him throughout the years – he is an incredibly deserving recipient of Life Membership.”
At the AGM, Swimming Australia also confirmed three new Board members, following the departure of Graeme Johnson, Nicole Livingstone OAM and outgoing President John Bertrand AO.
These seats will now be filled by former Swimming Queensland President Michael Cox, former ASCTA President Tony Shaw and Greg Hartung, who is the former President of the Australian Paralympic Committee and former Vice President of the International Paralympic Committee.
Stockwell thanked the outgoing Directors and welcomed the new Board members.
“Firstly, I’d like to thank John, Graeme and Nicole for their outstanding service to Swimming Australia and the sport of swimming during their time on the Board,” Stockwell said.
“They have been dedicated and committed Directors who have always had the sport’s best interests at heart when making decisions, and I sincerely thank them for their significant contributions while serving our sport.
“With that said, I’m pleased to now welcome our new Board members, Michael, Tony and Greg, who all bring with them a diverse range of skills that will be valuable to our Board.
“Tony and Michael arrive with years of experience working within our member organisations and both have a great passion for the sport of swimming.
“Greg has a wealth of knowledge and will no doubt be a valuable addition, having served on a number of international committees and through his role as former chair of the Australian Sports Commission.
“We look forward to working with our new members and on behalf of Swimming Australia I welcome them to the Board.”
Image Credits to Sport Australia Hall of Fame.