Fanny Durack

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Fanny Durack
Fanny Durack and Mina Wylie-1-.jpg
Fanny Durack (left) and Mina Wylie at 1912 Olympics
Personal information
Full name Sarah Frances Durack
Nickname(s) "Fanny"
Nationality  Australia
Born (1889-10-27)27 October 1889
Sydney, New South Wales
Died 20 March 1956(1956-03-20) (aged 66)
Sydney, New South Wales
Sport Swimming
Strokes Breaststroke, freestyle

Sarah Frances "Fanny" Durack (27 October 1889 – 20 March 1956) was an Australian competition swimmer. From 1910 until 1918 she was the world's greatest female swimmer of all distances from freestyle sprints to the mile marathon.[1]

Life and career[edit]

Fanny Durack in 1912

Durack was born in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia in 1889.

Durack learned to swim in Sydney's Coogee Baths using breaststroke, the only style for which there was a championship for women at that time. In 1906 she won her first title, and over the next few years, dominated the Australian swimming scene. In the 1910-11 swimming season, Mina Wylie beat Durack in the 100-yard breaststroke and the 100- and 220-yard freestyle at the Australian Swimming Championships at Rose Bay. The two went on to become close friends.

In the late 1910s, she held every women's swimming world record from 100 metres to a mile.

Durack and Wylie were initially refused permission to compete in the 1912 Summer Olympics in Stockholm. The New South Wales Ladies Swimming Association later allowed them to go provided they bore their own expenses. Durack set a new world record in the heats of the 100-metre freestyle. She won the final, becoming the first Australian woman to win an Olympic gold medal in a swimming event. Until 1932 (when Clare Dennis won the 200-metre backstroke in Los Angeles) she was the only such woman; and until 1956 she and Dennis were the only two such women.

During World War I, the statue of Mary and the infant Jesus on top of the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Brebières in Albert, Somme, France, was hit by a shell on 15 January 1915, and slumped to a near-horizontal position. Australian troops nicknamed the leaning statue "Fanny", in honour of Fanny Durack as it resembled the swimmer diving off the blocks.

Death and legacy[edit]

Durack died in Sydney in 1956. She was interred with her late husband, Bernard Martin Gately, in Waverley Cemetery. Fanny Durack Aquatic Centre [2] in Petersham, Sydney is named in her honour.

She was posthumously inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame as an "Honor Swimmer" in 1967.[3]


Olympic Records[edit]

  • 1912 gold (100m freestyle)

World records[edit]

  • 100-yard freestyle (1912 to 1921)
  • 100-metre freestyle (1912 to 1920)
  • 220-yard freestyle (1915 to 1921)
  • 500-metre freestyle (1916 to 1917)
  • mile (1914 to 1926)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ King, Helen, "Durack, Sarah (Fanny) (1889–1956)", Australian Dictionary of Biography
  2. ^ Fanny Durack Aquatic Centre
  3. ^ International Swimming Hall of Fame, Honorees, Fanny Durack (AUS). Retrieved 16 March 2015.


  • FitzSimons, Peter (2006). Great Australian Sports Champions. Harper Collins Publishers. ISBN 0-7322-8517-8. 
  • David Wallechinsky, The Complete Book of the Summer Olympics, Little, Brown and Company (1996)