These short articles are currently being published one at a time in the White Hat Melbourne Newsletter. As they form part of the weekly quiz in that newsletter, no names or dates are given. However, anybody familiar with Australian sport will know the people and occasions to which they refer, and it should to take little research for those less familiar to unearth that information. We don't claim these to be the seven greatest moments in Australian sport, just seven great moments, in no particular order, that we at White Hat find particularly significant. If you don't like our list that is not a problem. You may be inspired to go and make your own
The Australian swimmer was ahead but it was tough going. The Olympic swimming venue was in the icy waters of a European harbour and she and the only other Australian female competitor had been allowed to train for just half a mile a day in this new environment. That wasn’t nearly enough.. The water was the only place she really felt comfortable here. It was her first time out of Australia. True, she had her sister as chaperone but these uppity European girls made her feel clumsy and unsophisticated. But not in the water – that was a different matter. It was alright for her friend, Little Minnah. She was seven years younger and still a teenager. All she had to do was swim fast and not have to worry about the expectations of being a ‘young lady’. And the little minnow would swim fast . Even though there were only two Australian girls present they had wanted to enter the relay. They explained to the officials that each of them could swim twice, but the officials explained they were lucky enough to be competing at all. Baron de Coubertin who revived the modern Olympic Games objected to the idea of ‘women and blacks’ competing.
She was in front but swimming in an outside lane which is always a disadvantage. Little Minnah seemed to be coming last. It was hard to see in this murky water and using this new stroke that kept immersing your head in the water. Suddenly she hit the edge of the pool enclosure. We are not sure of the exact words she used at this point but it is quite probable that she recycled some of the vocabulary she had learned while working in her father’s pub in Sydney. She couldn’t let this collision put her off. She had overcome worse problems.. That do-gooder woman back in Sydney wanted to ban light ‘immodest’ costumes and forbid mixed bathing. Well here she was in a workable swimming costume using a stroke that had been taught to her by the fellahs during the mixed bathing sessions at the Domain Baths. There was more than one way to advance the cause of women than through enforcing somebody else’s views of modesty. When the official Australian swimming bodies refused to send women swimmers to the Olympics, it was ordinary Australians, including the blokes at the Domain Baths and the sea baths around Sydney who reached into their pockets and provided the funds for the two of them to go and compete. She couldn’t let them down.
She was back on track and focused on the finish line. She felt she was ahead but it was hard to tell until she hit the end. She turned to see that she had clearly won and that the little minnow had made her way through the group to come in a clear second. They could have won that relay you know. They waited for the time to be announced. It was then that she realised that not only had she won a gold medal. In one of the greatest achievements in Australian sport she had smashed the MEN’S world record by 4 seconds.
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