Shane Gould had a prodigious career, and a brief one. She was still only 15, a shy and lissom schoolgirl, when she did what no Australian, male or female, has ever done - in 1972 in Munich she won three individual gold medals at a single Olympics, all of them in world record time. Earlier, she had either equalled or broken 11 world records, and in the months before those Olympics, she had simultaneous possession of every world freestyle record from 100 to 1500 metres. Appropriately, it had been Gould, aged 15, who finally prised the world 100m freestyle record from the grasp of another wonder woman, Dawn Fraser. It was the most durable of all records, that one - it had been in the sole custody of Fraser, with occasional shavings, throughout Gould’s lifetime.
Gould’s love affair with the water began before she could walk - on beaches in Fiji. She joined Forbes Carlile’s swim school in 1970, at the age of 13. In April 1971 she began breaking world records, and when she arrived at the Munich Games there was a huge burden of anticipation - US swimmers took to wearing T-shirts proclaiming “All that glitters is not Gould.” She won the Olympic 200m and 400m freestyle and the 200m medley, but finished third in the race she really wanted to win, the 100m, and second in the 800m. Within a year she decided to retire; Carlile argued that she would regret the decision forever, but she remained adamant. “Basically… it just wasn’t fun any more,” she explained later.
Harry Gordon, AOC historian