Dawn Fraser has won three 100m freestyle crowns
Dawn Fraser. This temperamental genius ruled the pool in her own inimitable style — making waves not just in the waters but in life too. She has the rare distinction of being one of the two swimmers to win the same event thrice in the Olympics — the 100m freestyle — in 1956, 1960 and 1964 editions. The other one was Krisztina Egerszeg of Hungary.
It was a fairy-tale career for someone born in a working class family in the Sydney suburb of Balmain in 1937. Thanks to her coach Harry Gallagher, who spotted the talent in her at age 14, Fraser went on to scale the heights of Olympic glory by winning eight medals (four gold and four silver). For good measure, she held the 100m freestyle record between December 1956 and 1972.
But Fraser earned more publicity for her controversial decision to march in the Opening Ceremony of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics wearing an older swimming costume than the one provided by the sponsors.
And, worse, she was charged with stealing an Olympic flag from a flagpole outside the Emperor’s palace. She was arrested but let off. At the end of it all, she was given the same flag as a souvenir!
Back home, the Australian Swimming Union did not take this incident lightly and banned her for 10 years. Though at 31, Fraser did make an attempt to come back for the next Olympics, she had bow to the age factor.
In 1999 the International Olympic Committee named her the ‘World's Greatest Living Female Water Sports Champion’ for dominating international swimming for 15 years by holding 41 World records and remaining unbeaten in the 100 m freestyle.
Fraser’s human values were truly reflected when she donned the role of mentor for the Disabled Australian Olympic teams.
She is also remembered for her role as Patron of the Cerebral Palsy Sports Association, the Wheelchair Sports Association of Victoria and the Ladies Professional Golf Association. She preferred to swim against the tide and walked on a different path to glory.