Australian Women at the Olympics

Australian Women at the Olympics

For the first time ever, Australia’s summer Olympic team has more female athletes than male. The late call up of the women’s eight came after rowing’s international ruling body banned 22 of 28 Russian rowers from competition. The addition of the rowers (8 oarswomen plus the cox who steers the boat) means that the Australian team is made up of 212 women, and 207 men.

I thought it would be fun to take a look at some of the lesser known Australian women at the Olympics over the years.

Wilhemina (Mina) Wylie

mina wylie

Silver medalist in the 100m freestyle in Stockholm, Wylie was lesser known than her friend and rival
Fanny Durack. Durack is widely known as the first Australian woman to compete in the Olympics, where she took a Gold medal in the same race in which Wylie took second.

Wylie however, was a champion in her own right. Between 1906 and 1934 she won 115 State and national titles and held world records in freestyle, breast-stroke and backstroke. From 1928 to 1970 Mina Wylie taught swimming at Presbyterian Ladies’ College, Pymble, so it’s quite possible some of our current crop of over 40’s and 50’s runners came under her tutelage.


Brenda Jones-Carr

brenda jones carr

800m Silver medalist Rome, 1960.

A 400m and 800m specialist, Brenda Jones-Carr missed an opportunity of a home Olympics, as the women’s 800 was taken off the Olympic program after the 1928 Olympics, and not reinstated until 1960. Go figure.

Lynette McKenzie (nee McClements)Lynnette McClements

Gold, 100m Butterfly, Mexico

Silver, 4 x 100m Medly, Mexico.

McKenzie was the first Australian woman to win an Olympic Butterfly event. 

Now age 65, she still swims three times a week. When recently interviewed by The West Australian, she said
“… it does break my heart sometimes when some of [today’s swimmers] act up because they have been handed a gift and they are just so privileged. Some of them do get carried away with their own importance and they just have to…  be a little bit more humble about getting on with the job.” ““All the bravado comes a long way second to what you really have to do to achieve.”

Gail Neall (married Name Gail Yeo)

Gold Medalist, Munich, 400m Medley.

Neall was a little overshadowed by fellow Aussie Shane Gould at the Munich Olympics. Both Neall and Gould went to Turramurra High School, where they both have school houses named after them.

Her performance at Munich won her the Helms Award as Australasia’s outstanding athlete for 1972.

Gail Neall

Photo: JUDE KEOGH 0727clergate6

Gail Yeo is pictured here at the school her son teaches at. How lucky were those kids to have a visit from an Olympian! And if you think you do a lot for your kids, have a read of Mrs Yeo’s reminiscenses of her training regime. Behind every great Olympian is a great parent!

Suzy Balogh

Gold Medalist, Athens 2004. Shooting-Women’s Double Trap

suzy balagh

Suzy was Australia’s first female shooting gold medalist. She lived in Orange where there is no international shooting range, and drove four hours to Sydney most weekends to train. After her win she sent heartfelt thanks to “all the people who have let me stay in their spare rooms.” 

Olympia AlderseyOlympia Aldersey

As a member of the women’s rowing eight, Olympia is one of our newest Olympians, though with a name like that, it was only a matter of time. She was born during the opening ceremony of the Barcelona games.

Kirsten Todd 

Kirsten Todd

Sydney, 2000

Like many Sydney-siders, I was an enthusiastic spectator at many Olympic events in 2000. I’m pictured here  at the athletics, looking forward to an action packed night which included the men’s 10,000m featuring Haile Gebrselassie, the women’s pole vault featuring Australian pole vaulter Tatiana Grigorieva, the men’s long jump with jumping Jai Taurima, and the women’s 400m final, with that other lesser known Australian Olympian, Cathy Freeman.

A good night was had by all!! (including the drunken idiots in front of us who were barracking for “Gabrielle” in the men’s 10,000-that would be “Gabrielle Selassie” one can only presume).