Beyond the gold, beyond the podium and beyond the black line, swimming has provided countless opportunities for Australian women to succeed both in and out of the water. Women currently represent more than 55 percent of our national swimming membership. There are more than 5,500 women coaching swimming in Australia, and over 2,000 female technical officials. As volunteers, women play an intangible role at club level, just as mother’s driving athletes to and from the pool to achieve their Olympic and Paralympic dreams, their contribution and commitment sees no bounds.
As a sport swimming has a proud history of success, national identity and inspiring the Australian spirit. For more than 100 years swimming has provided Australian women with the opportunity to make their mark on the international stage. Since Fanny Durack won the first ever gold medal for an Australian woman at the 1912 Olympic Games, followed by Lily Beaurepaire who continued to lead the way, generations of Australians have been inspired by the success of our female swimmers.
‘Our Dawn’ Fraser started her run of three consecutive gold medals in the 100m freestyle at the Melbourne 1956 Olympic Games, capturing the heart of a nation along the way. Shane Gould continued to inspire Australian women at the tender of age of 15 when she won three gold medals at the 1972 Olympic Games, before the modern era welcomed names such as Susie O’Neill, Jodie Henry and Petria Thomas – all multiple Olympic champions.
At just 15, Leisel Jones took silver in Sydney 2000 before going on to represent Australia at a total of four Olympic Games, a first in swimming. While Libby Trickett, Stephanie Rice and Alicia Coutts have also all showered themselves in multiple medal glory on the biggest stage of all.
At the Paralympic level, Siobhan Paton led the way in 2000, winning an incredible six gold medals in Sydney, before Jacqui Freney rose to fame in London, returning home with a swag of eight gold medals and a string of accolades out of the pool.
All these women have proved an inspiration to today’s elite, and to those at the grass roots, with sisters Bronte and Cate Campbell, Emily Seebohm and rising stars such as Emma McKeon and Olympic relay gold medalist Brittany Elmslie set to inspire the next generation.
Household names that have inspired Australians through the generations
Fanny Durack - was the first women to represent Australia at the Olympic Games, winning gold in the women’s 100m freestyle in Stockholm in 1912.
Lily Beaurepaire and brother Frank became the first siblings to represent Australia at an Olympic Games in swimming when they both competed in Antwerp, 1920. Lily the younger of the two was the only woman on the swim team.
Dawn Fraser (OA) won the women’s 100m freestyle at three consecutive Olympic Games in Melbourne 1956, Rome 1960 and Tokyo 1964 for a total of eight Olympic medals.
Shane Gould won three gold medals, a silver and a bronze at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games and was awarded a Member of the Order of the British Empire in 1981.
Susie O’Neill (OAM) won gold at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games in the 200m butterfly and then gold at the Sydney Olympics in the 200m freestyle
Siobhan Paton (OAM) won six gold medals at the 2000 Paralympic Games in Sydney and was honoured with a Medal of the Order of Australia.
Jodie Henry won three gold medals at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games including an individual gold in the women’s 100m freestyle.
Petria Thomas (OAM) won three gold medals at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games including an individual gold in the women’s 100m butterfly.
Leisel Jones (OAM) is the only swimmer, male or female to represent Australia at four Olympic Games – Sydney, Athens, Beijing and London.
Stephanie Rice (OAM) won triple Olympic gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games including the women’s 200m IM and 400m IM.
Alicia Coutts won five medals in total at the 2012 London Olympic Games including gold in the women’s 4x100m freestyle relay.
Jacqui Freney won eight gold medals at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London, including six individual events.