Bendigo farewells Olympian Leech

16 September 2013

SWIMMING: Bendigo's Olympic gold medallist Faith Leech has passed away, aged 72.

When she was just 15 years old, Leech made her Olympic debut, competing at the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games.

She won bronze in the 100m freestyle behind Dawn Fraser and Lorraine Crapp, making it an all-Australian podium.

In the 4 x 100m freestyle relay she teamed with Fraser, Crapp and an even younger Sandra Morgan to become the first Australian women's swimming team to win an Olympic gold medal.

Within a few months of the Olympics, before she turned 16, she retired from competitive swimming at the advice of her doctor, and so at her only international swimming competition she had come away with gold and bronze medals.

Leech's success was made even more remarkable by the fact that she took up swimming to help deal with two serious birth defects as a child, having been born with double curvature of the spine and digestive problems that meant she had trouble retaining foods.

As there was no pool in Bendigo at the time, her parents drove her to Melbourne once a week to learn to swim.

After retiring, Leech continued to contribute much to the sport of swimming, as a teacher and also through her involvement with the Victorian Paralympics and the Special Olympics.

Leech's family have been offered the Olympic Flag.

Australian Olympic Committee