Australia's athlete of the century, as she was later voted for, made Melbourne her Olympics at the evening of Dexember 6th, 1956. On this night, Dawn Fraser grabbed her second gold of the Games with the home country's 4 x 100 meters freestyle relay. At this time, she already had the 100 meters freestyle title in her pocket, and one day later, she added a silver in the 400 meters freestyle, finishing behind teammate Lorraine Crapp (picture: enhancentertainment.com).
For the 18 year old girl who had grown up in the modest industrial Sydney suburb of Balmain, Melbourne was the starting point of one of the most successful and colourful Olympic careers. Dawn Fraser went on to win the 100 meters freestyle and the label of fastest female swimmer in the world two more time, at the 1960 Rome and the 1964 Tokyo Games. She swam 39 world records and in 1962 became the first woman to break the one minute barrier for the 100 meters at 59.9 seconds.
But far from becoming everybody's darling in Down Under, the outspoken Fraser was going to get into the center of a storm at Tokyo in 1964. She quarelled with Australian officials and team head coach Terrence Gathercole. After her gold medal win - maybe in s state of being a little tipsy - she stole an Olympic flag from a pole in the Garden of the Imperial Palace, and was arrested for one night. When officials suspended her for ten years in 1965, her career was virtually over. Nobody seemed to remember what Dawn had gone through in the months before Tokyo: In the spring of 1964, she had a horrific car accident in which her mother died and she was severely injured. It was a real wonder how she came back so successful in such a short time.
That Fraser was a natural born fighter had become clear in the years leading up to her Olympic debut in 1956. Dawn learned swimming at Elkington Park in a pool that later was named after her. At first she was coached by her cousin, before legendary Harry Gallagher took over. Gallagher convinced her father to let Dawn live and train with him. After some hesitating, Fraser senior agreed on Dawn's 18th birthday and sparked her unbelievable run at world class swimming. At first, he and Gallagher (who also advised Australia's 100 meters freestyle champion at the 1956 Games, Jon Henricks) had agreed on a six months trial. It was to become a span of seven higly successful years (pictures: Getty, Yourmemento).