Susie O

Travels From Queensland

Susie O'Neill

Australian Swimming Icon Susie O’Neil: A Legacy of Excellence and Inspiration 

Susie O’Neil AM, known affectionately as ‘Madame Butterfly’, is one of Australia’s most decorated swimmers, renowned for her exceptional career spanning from the early 1990s through the early 2000s. Born in Queensland, Susie demonstrated her swimming prowess early on and quickly went on to become a dominant force in international competitions.

She burst onto the international stage at the 1990 Auckland Commonwealth Games, winning gold in the 4x100m Freestyle Relay and silver in the 100m Butterfly. This marked the beginning of a remarkable streak where she never returned from an international competition without a medal until her retirement after the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Over her career, Susie amassed a staggering total of 67 major international medals, 8 Olympic medals, 18 World Championship medals, 25 Pan Pacific medals, and 16 Commonwealth medals. Her achievements include setting numerous Australian and Commonwealth records, particularly in her signature event, the 200m Butterfly. Susie pioneered Australia’s Olympic success and proved to be 

At the pinnacle of her career, Susie’s dominance was showcased at the 1998 Kuala Lumpur Commonwealth Games, where she secured a record-breaking eight medals, including 6 golds. This exceptional performance set her up as a leading figure in Australian swimming history.

Her Olympic journey reached its peak at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, where Susie added a gold in the 200m Freestyle to her collection, becoming Australia’s most successful Olympian since Shane Gould in 1972, as well as the first gold medallist female since 1980. Her career total of eight Olympic medals tied Dawn Fraser’s Australian record at the time. Following the 2000 Sydney Olympics, O’Neill retired from swimming and joined the International Olympic committee. 

Off the pool deck, Susie has continued to contribute to the world of sports and beyond. She was inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 2002 and elevated to Legend status in 2012 for her enduring impact on Australian sport. She served as an ambassador for the Fred Hollows Foundation and played a significant role in the International Olympic Committee as the Oceania athletes’ representative from 2000-2005.

Susie has since also become a familiar voice on Australian radio, co-hosting Nova Brisbane’s popular breakfast program. Her versatility extends far beyond sports, as she released a single title “My Heart Goes Boom” in 2018 and took on leadership roles such as joint Deputy Chef de Mission for the Australian Olympic team in 2020.

In addition to her athletic achievements and media career, Susie is dedicated to her family life, balancing her role as a full-time mum with her ongoing commitments to charity work and fitness pursuits. Her enduring legacy is not only defined by her medals but also by her humility and down to earth nature, respect for competitors, and dedication to inspiring future generations both in and out of the pool.

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