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Dawn Fraser AC MBE - Sports Heroes - Australian Olympic Legend and Sporting Icon

Travels From Queensland

Dawn Fraser AC MBE

Australian Olympic Legend and Sporting Icon

Crowned Australia’s greatest female athlete, Dawn is one of the most iconic and most decorated athletes in Australian sports history. She broke and held 41 World Records and was undefeated over the 100 metres freestyle during her career. An international phenomenon, she has won gold medals in multiple Olympic and Commonwealth Games, and her success has spanned over fifteen years. This includes eight Olympic Medals and six British Empire and Commonwealth gold medals. She was also the first woman to break the minute for the 100-metre freestyle.

Born in Sydney (Australia), Dawn is the youngest of eight children. She started swimming at the age of four at the Balmain Baths in Sydney and competing when she was eleven. Her extraordinary swimming ability was first noted in 1952 by coach Harry Gallagher after she and her friends disrupted a squad session. A fellow Sport Australia Hall of Fame Member, Harry quickly recognised Dawn’s raw talent and took over her training, setting the 1956 Olympics in her sights.

In 1955, Dawn was selected as a reserve swimmer for the Australian Swimming Championships. She got her chance to compete after her teammate and fellow Sport Australia Hall of Fame Member, Lorrain Crapp, was forced to withdraw from the 220 yards freestyle due to injury.

She won her first Australian title and set an Australian record time.

During the 1955 summer season, she continued to re-write the record books and set new Australian records in all freestyle events up to 880 yards.

In 1956, eighteen-year-old Dawn broke Will den Ouden’s twenty-year-old record in the 100-metre freestyle, setting her first world record.

That same year, she led an Australian medal sweep of the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, with Lorrain Crapp and Faith Leech taking the silver and gold medals. During the 100-metre freestyle, she set a new world record of 62 seconds, a record she held until 1971.

During the 1960 Rome and 1964 Olympic Games, Dawn continued to dominate the 100-metre freestyle and claimed the Olympic title at both games. She is the first-ever swimmer to win gold in three successive Olympic Games.

During the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, she finished her international swimming career, winning a gold medal in the 100-metre freestyle at the age of 27. Throughout her Olympic career, Dawn won a total amount of four gold and four silver medals.

She was inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 1985 as an Athlete Member. Dawn was the first female member to be elevated to Legend of Australian Sport in 1993 for her contributions to the sport.

After her retirement, Dawn took to horse ownership and racing and was elected to the New South Wales Parliament for the Balmain seat in 1988 before it was abolished in 1991.

In 1998, Dawn was included as one of Australia’s National Living Treasures and was made an Officer of the Order of Australia for service to the community. This was upgraded to Companion of the Order of Australia in 2018.

She was awarded “World Athlete of the Century” at Vienna’s 1999 World Sports Awards. In the same year, Dawn was also awarded “Athlete of the Century” by the Australian Sports Hall of Fame, “Swimmer of the Century” and voted the “World’s Greatest Living Female Water Sports Champion”.

She continued her love for sport by being a mentor for Abled and Disabled Australian Olympic Teams and maintained an active role in the sporting and wider community as a Patron of numerous sporting associations. This includes the Cerebral Palsy Sports Association, the Wheelchair Sports Association of Victoria and the Ladies Professional Golf Association. Dawn was also a Founding Member of the Laureus World Sports Academy, a member of the Sport for Good Foundation and Vice President of the World Association of Olympic Winners.

In 2013, Dawn appeared on Channel Nine’s Celebrity Apprentice and nominated the Sunshine Coast Riding for the Disabled group as her charity of choice.

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