Fanny Durack

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Sarah Frances "Fanny" Durack (27 October 1889 – 20 March 1956), also known by her married name Fanny Gately, was an Australian competition swimmer. In the 1910s Fanny Durack was the fastest female swimmer in Australia and was told she couldn't compete in the upcoming Olympics because as a woman it was ‘immodest’. But she was all like “Fuck that” and became not only Australia’s first female Olympian, but broke the world record for the 100m at the 1912 Stockholm Games. She’s a true Sheila because she didn’t take no for an answer and refused to abide by the ‘rules’ of how a woman at the time ‘should’ behave. Something to remember any time someone says having tits is standing in between you and your dreams.

Life and career

Fanny Durack, Stockholm Olympics, 1912 a468005u

Durack learned to swim in Sydney's Coogee Baths<ref name=":0" /> 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.

From late 1912 to 1920, Durack held the official women's Freestyle swimming world record for 100 metres.<ref>Template:Cite news</ref> She also held the 200M freestyle record from 1915 to 1921. Other world records held included 220 yards freestyle (1915 to 1921), 500M freestyle (1916 to 1917) and 1 mile freestyle (1914 to 1926). She also held many Australian and State records.

The New South Wales Ladies Swimming Association initially was opposed to women participating in the Olympic Games.<ref name=NSWLSA /> The 1912 Summer Olympics in Stockholm was to be the first Olympics to have women's swimming. Durack and Wylie were initially refused permission by NSWLSA to compete, but later they were allowed to go provided they bore their own expenses.<ref>Template:Citation</ref> They organised local fundraising to raise the funds for themselves as well as for the obligatory chaperones.<ref name=NSWLSA>Lenskyj, Helen (2013) Gender Politics and the Olympic Industry. Template:ISBN</ref> 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 the 1932 Olympics (when Clare Dennis won the 200-metre breaststroke in Los Angeles<ref></ref>) she was the only such woman; and until the 1956 Olympics she and Dennis were the only two such women.

A week before the Australian team left for the 1920 Antwerp Olympics, in May 1920, Durack suffered appendicitis<ref>Template:Cite news</ref> and had an emergency appendectomy. This was followed by typhoid fever and pneumonia and she was unable to participate in the Olympic team.<ref name=":0" />

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

Durack died in Sydney in 1956. She was interred in Waverley Cemetery, together with her late husband Bernard Martin Gately. Fanny Durack Aquatic Centre<ref>Fanny Durack Aquatic Centre.</ref> in Petersham, Sydney, is named in her honour.

She was posthumously inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame as an "Honour Swimmer" in 1967.<ref name=ishofprofile>International Swimming Hall of Fame, Honourees, Fanny Durack (AUS). Retrieved 16 March 2015.</ref>

Sarah Durack Ave at Sydney Olympic Park in Sydney, Australia is named in honour of her.



Olympic Records

  • 1912 gold (100m freestyle)

World records

  • 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




  • Template:Cite book
  • David Wallechinsky, The Complete Book of the Summer Olympics, Little, Brown and Company (1996)

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Template:Footer Olympic Champions 100 m Freestyle Women Template:1912 Australasian Olympic team

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