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Shane Gould

b. 1956

Born the year that Dawn Fraser won her first Olympic Gold medal, Shane Gould (b.1956) in her very brief international career, became one of the world’s greatest female swimmers. Born in Sydney, raised in Fiji, she joined Forbes Carlile’s swim school in 1970 when her family returned to Australia. By 1971 at the age of 14 she began breaking world records and by January 1972 she broke Dawn Fraser’s 100 metres freestyle record; throughout 1972 she held every freestyle world record, a feat that remains unmatched. At the Munich Olympic Games, the 15-year-old schoolgirl won three gold medals, one silver and one bronze medal, broke three world records, and was honoured as the 1972 Australian of the Year.

The level of exposure was overwhelming. Gould retired from competitive swimming aged 16, at the end of 1973. Married at 18, and as part of the Back to the Land movement, she went to live on a farm, and raise a family, near Margaret River, Western Australia.

Awarded an International Olympic Committee Olympic Order in 1994, her re-engagement with professional swimming began in earnest in 1998 in the lead up to the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, where she and six other Australian female Olympians were torch-bearers at the opening ceremony. Gould published her popular autobiography Tumble Turns in 1999.

Since 2007 she has lived in Tasmania with her swim-coach husband Milton Nelms where she has completed two post-graduate degrees and is currently a doctoral candidate in the study of swimming culture in Australia. She works on drowning prevention projects in Australia and Fiji and has undertaken research in collaboration with the Swedish Centre for Aquatic Research in Lund. Shane Gould is a National Living Treasure, a recipient of a Centenary Medal and has several Masters swimming records to her credit.

Updated 2018