Tokyo 1964: Dawn Fraser – Swimming

Tokyo 1964: Dawn Fraser – Swimming
Cinesound Movietone Productions
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One of Australia's most decorated Olympic athletes, Dawn Fraser was the first woman to break the minute for 100m and the only woman to capture the 100m freestyle in three successful Olympics: Melbourne (1956), Rome (1960) and Tokyo (1964).

The clip features Dawn's famous 100m final in Tokyo in 1964. Pressed by the American teenage sensations Sharon Stouder and Kathy Ellis, who were expected to win all freestyle events, Dawn meets the challenge by setting a new Olympic figure of 59.9 seconds.

Her performance in Tokyo was also remarkable considering the circumstances leading up to the event. Dawn was involved in a car crash which resulted in the tragic death of her mother. Dawn suffered injuries resulting in her neck and back being encased in a steel brace for weeks and was racked with depression after the accident.

Dawn's ability to overcome these physical and mental barriers – and then win gold – shows toughness and determination perhaps unparalleled in Australia's Olympic history. These events were later dramatised in the Australian feature film biopic Dawn! (Kan Hannam, Australia, 1979).

The later part of the clip features Dawn at the Prince Alfred Park pool, where she took up a coaching appointment. As stated in the clip, Dawn’s younger students take the opportunity to study her faultless technique while she swims her daily mile.

One of the delights of this newsreel segment is how it successfully edits together snippets of Dawn’s swimming career with her current occupation as a swimming instructor (including her ambitions to coach an Olympic champion).

Playing out as a kind of ‘then’ and ‘now’ of Dawn’s life, the clip’s controlled but dramatic voice-over is typical of newsreels and advertisements of the time.

Excerpt from Australian Movie Magazine No. 7048, 26 November 1970.