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Olympic History

Swimming has a proud history of achievement at the Olympic Games and is without doubt Australia’s most successful Olympic sport. Swimmers have represented Australia at every summer Olympics since 1900 in Paris, after only sending runner, Edwin Flack to the 1896 Athens Olympics.

Frederick Lane was Australia’s sole swimming representative at the 1900 games, winning two individual gold medals. Women’s events were added at the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm, with Fanny Durack and Whilhelmina ‘Mina’ Wylie being Australia’s first female representatives, winning gold and silver in the 100m freestyle, which was the first women’s event on the program.

In total Australia has won 58 swimming gold medals at the Olympic Games, second only to the United States, who have won 217. East Germany is in third place with 32 gold medals.

Swimming is Australia’s most prolific Olympic Games sport, having been responsible for 58 of Australia’s 135 Olympic gold medals in the Olympic Games. In addition, a list of the top 100 Australian Olympians of all time, compiled by the Australian Olympic Committee, named 35 swimmers in the top 100, more than any other sport. Swimmers have been given the honour of carrying the Australian flag six times in twelve at the closing ceremony, which is traditionally reserved for the most successful athlete of the delegation.

Australia’s strongest ever performance in swimming was at the 1956 Olympic Games on home soil in Melbourne. Australia claimed eight of the thirteen gold medals available, including both relays and a clean sweep of the medals in the 100m freestyle. This is the only time that Australia has topped the medal tally in swimming, and the tally of gold medals has not been surpassed since despite the expansion of the swimming program to its current 32 events.

Australia has been most successful in the freestyle discipline, with 37 of the 58 gold medals coming from the stroke. Eight of the gold medals have come from the men’s 1500m freestyle, the most victories in the event by any country.

Australia’s first medal outside of freestyle did not come until Los Angeles in 1932 when Clare Dennis and Bonnie Mealing won gold and silver in the 200m breaststroke and 100m backstroke respectively.

It was not until John Davies’ victory in the 200m breaststroke in Helsinki in 1952 that a male swimmer had won a medal outside of freestyle.

Olympic Events:

  • 50m, 100m, 200m, 400m, 800m (w), 1500m (m) Freestyle
  • 100m, 200m Backstroke, Breaststroke, Butterfly
  • 200m, 400m Individual Medley
  • 4 x 100m Freestyle, 4 x 200m Freestyle, 4 x 100m Medley relays
  • 10km Marathon Swim
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