Susie O’Neill OAM
Former Olympic swimming great
Susie O’Neill is one of the most inspiring and most successful swimmers in Australian history. Known during her career as ‘Madame Butterfly’, she holds a record 35 Australian titles, eight Olympic medals and a string of victories at international level as well as numerous honours.
At one point Susie was Australia’s only female world record holder, after breaking Mary T Meagher’s 19-year-old record in the 200m butterfly. The first Australian female swimming Olympic gold medallist since 1980, Susie was also the first Australian female to win the 200m butterfly.
Respected and renowned not only for incredible feats in the pool but also for her humility and down-to-earth nature, Susie is in demand as a celebrity MC and speaker.
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Susie narrowly missed selection for the 1988 Seoul Olympics when she was just fourteen years old, but went on to launch her incredible career in 1990 when she won gold and silver medals at the Commonwealth Games.
Remarkably, over the next ten years, Susie never arrived home without a medal from an international competition. Indeed, in 1996, she came home from the Atlanta Olympics with a gold, silver and bronze medal. Having done so, Susie received the honour of being Australia’s most outstanding Olympic performer since Shane Gould in 1972.
In 1997, Susie O’Neill was honoured with an Order of Australia for Service to Sport as a gold medallist at the Atlantic Olympics.
In September 1998 Susie performed brilliantly at the Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur, coming home with a record eight medals including six gold. Susie won ten gold medals at Commonwealth Games, the most ever for an Australian while her six gold medals in Kuala Lumpur is a record for the most gold won at a single Commonwealth Games. At the August 1999 Pan Pacific Championships at Sydney’s Olympic venue Susie won six medals including golds in the 200m butterfly and 200m freestyle.
At Sydney 2000, her final Olympics, Susie affirmed herself as one of Australia’s all-time greats with one gold and three silvers. She has eight Olympic medals, equaling Dawn Fraser’s Australian record of the biggest medal aggregate. At the closing of the Games, she was officially appointed by the IOC as one of a number of new delegates who are recent Olympians.
Susie retired from competitive swimming and, as a member of the IOC, instilled her champion qualities into the Olympic movement. However, in 2004, when she became a mother for the first time, she made the decision to step down from the committee to spend more time with her family.
She commentated at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and was the Oceania athletes’ representative on the International Olympic Committee until 2005. Also in 2006, Susie was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF).
On 10 March 2007, the temporary swimming pool in the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne was named after her for the duration of the 12th FINA World Championships, the site of the swimming events.
As a mark of how highly Susie O’Neill is respected, she and former Australian team head coach Bill Sweetenham were appointed to conduct an independent review of Australia’s poor performance in the pool following the 2012 London Olympics.
Susie has an ability to relate to the audience by using her humour and realness