On July 12, 1912, Fanny Durack became the first Australian female to win an Olympic Gold Medal for swimming. From 1910-1918 she was considered the world’s greatest female swimmer, followed closely by her good friend and companion, ‘Mina’ Wylie.
In the 1910-11 swimming season, Mina beat Fanny in the 100-yard breaststroke and the 100 and 220-yard Freestyle events at the Australian Swimming Championships, held in Sydney's Rose Bay.
Although close rivals in the pool, Fanny and Mina became close friends - competing against each other for the title of Female World Champion throughout their lives.
Initially the New South Wales Ladies Swimming Association did not support them competing in Stockholm, but Fanny and Mina were determined to go - even if they had to pay their own travel costs and that of their compulsory chaperones. Fundraising events were held to raise the fares necessary to get them both to the Games.
The Turn of the Tide
A swimming trip to America in 1918 and 1919 followed Fanny and Mina's success, but did not go exactly as planned. Arriving in America without official sanction, they were initially banned from competing by the Amateur Swimming Union of Australia.
Their next challenge: the "American Crawl". The American swimmers had an entirely different swimming style that Fanny and Mina had to learn to have any chance of success there.
Fanny Durack continued to be celebrated after her retirement and deservedly so. Between 1912 and 1918, she had broken 12 World Records - including swims of 100 yards (91 m) in 1 minute 6 seconds, 100 metres in 1 minute 16.2 seconds, and 1 mile (1.6 km) in 26 minutes 8 seconds.
Fanny died in 1956 and was buried in Waverley cemetery, overlooking the sea. Her success in the pool did much to promote the cause of women's swimming, and women's sport in general, in Australia.
The Fanny Durack Aquatic Centre, in Petersham, Sydney, is named in her honour.
Thank you to the National Library of Australia for the use of the image of Fanny Durack's Olympic Gold Medal