Dawn Fraser is regarded as the finest female sprint swimmer of them all; winner of four gold and four silver Olympic medals, holder of 39 world records (27 of them individual) and first in her sport of either sex to win the same event at three consecutive Olympics. Her many early handicaps included severe respiratory troubles. She was a natural rebel, often in conflict with authority, and was even disqualified, for alleged professionalism, at the age of 14.
At her first Olympics, in 1956 in Melbourne - where Australia dominated the freestyle swimming - she won the 100m freestyle, was a member of the winning 4 x 100m relay team, and finished second to Lorraine Crapp in the 400m. She went on to win the 100m freestyle in Rome (1960) and Tokyo (1964), collecting silver in the sprint relays at both those Games, and silver again in Rome in the medley relay. Her troubles with officialdom continued - in 1960, after the Rome Games, she was a suspended from international competition for two years for assorted indiscretions, and in 1964, she was given a 10-year suspension. The term was later reduced to four years, but had the effect of ending a career which might have concluded with triumph in 1968.
Fraser’s greatest victory, against the odds, occurred in 1964, when she came back to win in Tokyo after a car crash that killed her mother and seriously injured her neck and spine. Such was her dominance of the 100m freestyle that she held the world record for 16 years.
Harry Gordon, AOC historian