Dawn Fraser

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Dawn Fraser
Dawn Fraser.jpg
Dawn Fraser in May 2012
Personal information
National team Australia
Born (1937-09-04) 4 September 1937 (age 85)
Balmain, New South Wales, Australia
Height1.72 m (5 ft 8 in)
Weight67 kg (148 lb)
Member of the New South Wales Parliament
for Balmain
In office
19 March 1988 – 25 May 1991
Preceded byPeter Crawford
Succeeded byDistrict abolished
StrokesFreestyle, butterfly
Medal record
Women's swimming
Representing Australia
Olympic Games
Gold medal – first place 1956 Melbourne 100 m freestyle
Gold medal – first place 1956 Melbourne 4×100 m freestyle
Gold medal – first place 1960 Rome 100 m freestyle
Gold medal – first place 1964 Tokyo 100 m freestyle
Silver medal – second place 1956 Melbourne 400 m freestyle
Silver medal – second place 1960 Rome 4×100 m freestyle
Silver medal – second place 1960 Rome 4×100 m medley
Silver medal – second place 1964 Tokyo 4×100 m freestyle
British Empire and Commonwealth Games
Gold medal – first place 1958 Cardiff 110 yd freestyle
Gold medal – first place 1958 Cardiff 4×110 yd freestyle
Gold medal – first place 1962 Perth 110 yd freestyle
Gold medal – first place 1962 Perth 440 yd freestyle
Gold medal – first place 1962 Perth 4×110 yd freestyle
Gold medal – first place 1962 Perth 4×110 yd medley
Silver medal – second place 1958 Cardiff 440 yd freestyle

Dawn Fraser AC MBE (born 4 September 1937) is an Australian freestyle champion swimmer and former politician. She is one of only four swimmers to have won the same Olympic individual event three times – in her case the women's 100-metre freestyle.[1]

Early life[edit]

Fraser was born in the Sydney suburb of Balmain, New South Wales, in 1937 into a poor working-class family, the youngest of eight children.[2] Her father, Kenneth Fraser, was from Embo, Scotland.[3] She was spotted at the early age of 14 by Sydney coach Harry Gallagher swimming at the local sea baths.

Swimming career[edit]

Fraser won eight Olympic medals, including four gold medals, and six Commonwealth Games gold medals. She also held 39 records. The 100 metres freestyle record was hers for 15 years from 1 December 1956 to 8 January 1972.

She is the first of only four swimmers in Olympic history (Krisztina Egerszegi of Hungary, Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky both from the United States being the three others) to have won individual gold medals for the same event at three successive Olympics (100 metres freestyle – 1956, 1960, 1964).

In October 1962, she became the first woman to swim 100 metres freestyle in less than one minute.[4] It was not until 1972, eight years after Fraser retired, that her 100m record of 58.9 secs was broken.[5]

Several weeks before the 1964 Olympics, Fraser was injured in a car crash that resulted in the death of her mother Rose. Her sister and a friend were also travelling in Fraser's car when it crashed, but they survived.[6] This was a fresh tragedy for Fraser and her family following her older brother's death from leukaemia in 1950, and her father died after a long battle against cancer in 1960.


During the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Fraser angered swimming team sponsors and the Australian Swimming Union (ASU) by marching in the opening ceremony against their wishes, and wearing an older swimming costume in competition, as she found it more comfortable than the one supplied by the sponsors. She was also accused of stealing an Olympic flag from a flagpole outside Emperor Hirohito's palace, the Kōkyo. She was arrested but released without charge. In the end she was given the flag as a souvenir.[7] She later denied having swum the moat to steal the flag, telling The Times in 1991: "There's no way I would have swum that moat. I was terrified of dirty water and that moat was filthy. There's no way I'd have dipped my toe in it."[8] The Australian Amateur Swimming Association banned Fraser from competitive swimming for 10 years.[9]

In 1997, Fraser told the ABC: "I mean I wish I could be as outspoken, I suppose, as Pauline Hanson and say, 'look, I'm sick and tired of the immigrants that are coming into my country.'" Fraser also stated her interest in joining Hanson's One Nation Party.[10]

In 2015, during an interview on the Today program, Fraser was asked about recent behaviour of Nick Kyrgios at Wimbledon and Bernard Tomic’s comments about Tennis Australia, which resulted in Tomic being removed from the Davis Cup team. Fraser said, "They should be setting a better example for the younger generation of this country ... If they don’t like it, go back to where their fathers or their parents came from". (Kyrgios is of Malay and Greek ancestry, while Tomic is of Croat extraction.) Kyrgios responded by describing her as a "blatant racist", and Fraser's comments were criticised by Australia’s Race Discrimination Commissioner, Tim Soutphommasane.[11][12][13][14] Fraser "unreservedly" apologised for her comments.[11]

Post-swimming activities[edit]

Fraser became a publican at the Riverview Hotel, Balmain, and took up swimming coaching. In 1988, she was elected as an independent to the New South Wales Legislative Assembly for the seat of Balmain. That electorate was abolished in 1991, and after she failed to win the new seat of Port Jackson, she retired from politics.[1][15] Fraser is a high-profile supporter and a board director of the Wests Tigers NRL club.[16]


She was named the Australian of the Year in 1964,[17] was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1965,[18] (as Dawn Ware) was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 1967,[19] and appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in 1998.[20] Also in 1998, she was voted Australia's greatest female athlete in history.[citation needed] She was named Australian Female Athlete of the Century by the Sport Australia Hall of Fame,[21] who had inducted her as their first female member in 1985.[22] In 1999 the International Olympic Committee named her the World's Greatest Living Female Water Sports Champion.[citation needed] on 14 July 2000, Fraser was awarded the Australian Sports Medal for "outstanding contribution as a swimming competitor".[23]

She was one of the bearers of the Olympic Torch at the opening ceremony of the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney. She carried the Olympic Torch at the stadium, as one of the bearers for the final segment, before the lighting of the Olympic Flame.

The Australian Sport Awards includes an award named in honour of and presented by Fraser. The sea baths in Balmain where she swam were named the Dawn Fraser Swimming Pool in her honour in 1964,[24] and in 1992, the State Transit Authority named a RiverCat ferry after Fraser.

As part of the 2018 Queen's Birthday Honours she was advanced to a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC).[25]

In 2022, she was an inaugural inductee of the Swimming Australia Hall of Fame.[26]

In film[edit]

In 1979, a movie called Dawn! was made about Fraser's life and career. It starred Bronwyn Mackay-Payne as Fraser.

Fraser was played by Melissa Thomas in the 2003 film Swimming Upstream. Fraser herself is credited in the film as Dawn Fraser's coach. On 1 September 2015, Dawn Fraser featured on Season 7, Episode 5, of the SBS genealogy television series Who Do You Think You Are?, which traced her heritage back to South America.

Personal life[edit]

Fraser married Gary Ware on 30 January 1965 at St Stephens Church, Macquarie Street, Sydney.[27] The marriage was short-lived. She has one daughter from the marriage, who has a son. They all live in Noosa on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland. This move north from Sydney to a warmer, subtropical climate was due to the fact Fraser suffers from severe asthma.[28][29] She is the great-aunt of Canadian soccer player Danielle Steer.[30]

Olympic accomplishments[edit]

Dawn Fraser in 1958
Dawn Fraser and Ilsa Konrads at the Australian National Swimming Championships and Olympic Trials, North Sydney Olympic Pool, 27 February 1960
Event Time Place
1956 Summer Olympics
100m Freestyle 1:02.0 Gold WR
400m Freestyle 5:02.5 Silver
4 × 100 m Freestyle Relay 4:17.1 Gold WR
1960 Summer Olympics
100m Freestyle 1:01.2 Gold OR
400m Freestyle 4:58.5 5th
4 × 100 m Freestyle Relay 4:11.3 Silver
4 × 100 m Medley Relay 4:45.9 Silver
1964 Summer Olympics
100m Freestyle 59.5 Gold OR
400m Freestyle 4:47.6 4th
4 × 100 m Freestyle Relay 4:06.9 Silver
4 × 100 m Medley Relay 4:52.3 9th
  • 1962 Perth Commonwealth Games
    • 110 yards freestyle – gold medal
    • 440 yards freestyle – gold medal
    • 4 × 110 yards (4 × 100.58 metres) freestyle relay – gold medal
    • 4 × 110 yards (4 × 100.58 metres) medley relay – gold medal

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Dawn Fraser Archived 17 September 2013 at the Wayback Machine. sports-reference.com
  2. ^ Boyer Sagert, Kelley; Overman, Steven J. (2012). Icons of Women's Sport. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO. pp. 137–152. ISBN 978-0-313-38549-0. Retrieved 8 July 2015.
  3. ^ McMorran, Caroline (20 August 2012). "Olympic swim star makes surprise visit". The Northern Times. Archived from the original on 9 July 2015. Retrieved 8 July 2015.
  4. ^ Clarkson, Alan (28 October 1962). "Champion's world time in 110 yds". The Sun-Herald. p. 67.
  5. ^ "Swim contest a spectacular of records". The Sun-Herald. AAP, Reuters. 2 May 1971. p. 107.
  6. ^ "I killed my mother". The Sydney Morning Herald. 9 August 2004. Retrieved 4 January 2018.
  7. ^ "Dawn Fraser: still kicking". Sunday Profile, ABC. 15 April 2007. Archived from the original on 12 February 2017. Retrieved 4 November 2015.
  8. ^ Lord, Craig. "DAWN FRASER". The Times. ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 26 January 2021.
  9. ^ "Swim ban on four Games girls". Canberra Times. 2 March 1965.
  10. ^ Corderoy, Amy (7 July 2015). "From Olympic bans to One Nation: Dawn Fraser no stranger to controversy". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 30 July 2020.
  11. ^ a b "Dawn Fraser sorry for 'racist' outburst on Nick Kyrgios and Bernard Tomic". The Guardian. 7 July 2015. Retrieved 13 August 2016.
  12. ^ Hinds, Alex; agencies (7 July 2015). "Dawn Fraser tells Kyrgios and Tomic to 'go back where their parents came from'". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 30 July 2020.
  13. ^ "Dawn Fraser attacks Nick Kyrgios after Wimbledon 2015 loss". NewsComAu. 7 July 2015. Archived from the original on 7 July 2015. Retrieved 8 July 2015.
  14. ^ Holland, Angus (7 July 2015). "Dawn Fraser's comments about Kyrgios and Tomic were racist, say experts". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 13 August 2016.
  15. ^ "Ms Dawn Fraser (1937– )". Former members of the Parliament of New South Wales. Retrieved 13 May 2019.
  16. ^ "Benji Marshall Good Natured Dawn Fraser". The Australian. Retrieved 10 February 2023. (subscription required)
  17. ^ Lewis, Wendy (2010). Australians of the Year. Pier 9 Press. ISBN 978-1-74196-809-5.
  18. ^ "Dawn Fraser (AUS)". ISHOF.org. International Swimming Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 17 March 2015.
  19. ^ It's an Honour: MBE
  20. ^ It's an Honour Archived 22 February 2019(Date mismatch) at the Wayback Machine – Officer of the Order of Australia
  21. ^ Wilson, Chris (28 February 2013). "Fraser named greatest despite push for skater". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 4 September 2013.
  22. ^ "Dawn Fraser". Sport Australia Hall of Fame. Retrieved 26 September 2020.
  23. ^ "Dawn Fraser". Australian Honours Database. Archived from the original on 28 November 2017. Retrieved 8 May 2013.
  24. ^ "State Heritage Inventory". 22 October 2019.
  25. ^ "FRASER, Dawn". It's An Honour. Australian Government. 11 June 2018. Retrieved 11 June 2018.
  26. ^ Hanson, Ian (28 August 2022). "Ian Thorpe, Dawn Fraser and Shane Gould Among First Inductees Into Swimming Australia Hall Of Fame". Swimming World. Retrieved 29 August 2022.
  27. ^ Hickson, Jack (30 January 1965). "Dawn Fraser's wedding to Gary Ware, St. Stephen's Church, Sydney". acms.sl.nsw.gov.au. State Library of NSW. Retrieved 21 December 2014.
  28. ^ Fraser, Dawn (15 April 2007). "Dawn Fraser: still kicking". Sunday Profile www.abc.net.a (Interview). Interviewed by Attard, Monica. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Archived from the original on 12 February 2017. Retrieved 21 December 2014.
  29. ^ Hardy, Karen (15 December 2013). "Dawn Fraser still smiling". The Sydney Morining Herald. Fairfax Media. Retrieved 21 December 2014.
  30. ^ Hughes, Nick (4 January 2023). "Danielle Steer adds extra flair to Western United attacking stocks". Western United FC.

External links[edit]

New South Wales Legislative Assembly
Preceded by Member for Balmain
District abolished
Preceded by Women's 100 metre freestyle
world record holder (long course)

21 February 1956 – 3 March 1956
Succeeded by
Preceded by Women's 100 metre freestyle
world record holder (long course)

25 August 1956 – 20 October 1956
Succeeded by