Australia's Greatest Olympian
Dawn Fraser is Australia’s greatest Olympian. In November 1999, she was awarded World Athlete of the Century at the World Sport Awards in Vienna. The same year she was awarded Athlete of the Century by the Australian Sports Hall of Fame.
Dawn is an international phenomenon: a multi-Olympic and Commonwealth Games Gold Medal winner whose success stretched over fifteen years, during which she broke and held 41 World records. Her sporting accomplishments are unlikely to be repeated – in swimming or any other sport.
At the 1956 Melbourne Olympics Dawn became an Australian hero and world swimming star, when she won the 100 metres freestyle Gold medal in world record time and then took Gold in the 100 metres freestyle relay and Silver in the 400 metres freestyle. In 1958 she won two more Gold medals at the Commonwealth Games in Wales, and another Gold at the Rome Olympics in 1960.
After winning four Gold medals at the 1962 Commonwealth Games in Perth, Dawn finished her international swimming career at the Tokyo Olympics in 1964 silencing her critics by winning a Gold medal at the age of 27, taking her total Olympic medal count to four Gold medals and four Silver medals.
Twenty years later, in 1988 Dawn returned to the public life when she was elected as an independent MLA for the seat of Balmain, New South Wales. When the seat was abolished in a redistribution prior to the next election she ran, unsuccessfully, for the new seat of Port Jackson in 1991. Dawn has since maintained an active role in the sporting and wider community as a member of the Cerebral Palsy Sports Association, a Patron of the Wheelchair Sports Association of Victoria and Vice President of the World Association of Olympic Winners, while continuing to support sporting clubs across the country. She is a member of the NSW Sports Advisory Board and the Sydney Cricket Ground Trust and is a Director of the Wests Tigers Football Club and Balmain Leagues Club.
Dawn Fraser was named the Australian of the Year in 1964, made a Member of the Order of the British Empire in 1967, and appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in 1998 for service to the community, particularly as a sports consultant and administrator, and through organisations for people with disabilities, and to the environment. Also in 1998, she was voted Australia’s greatest female athlete in history. Dawn was named Australian Female Athlete of the Century by the Sport Australian Hall of Fame and at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games Opening Ceremony, she was honoured as one of seven greatest athletes of all time and carried the Olympic torch on its way to the main stadium.
At the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, Juan Antonio Samaranch, President of the International Olympic Committee made Dawn, First Lady of the Olympic Games partnering him to the Opening Ceremony. She remains one of Australia’s best-loved identities.
Dawn was one of the contestants in the 2005 season of the Seven Network’s Dancing with the Stars. The Australian Sport Awards includes an award named in honour of and presented by Fraser and a Sydney Ferry that operates on the Parramatta River in Sydney has been named after her.
The audience, comprising members of the community, politicians and invited guests, responded positively and enthusiastically to Dawn. Dawn was poised yet approachable and quickly put people at ease, posing for photographs and taking a genuine interest in our guests both young and old.