Shane Gould is the only swimmer – male or female – to hold every world freestyle record from 100 metres to 1,500 metres simultaneously together with the 200-metre individual medley world record. She is the first female swimmer ever to win three Olympic gold medals in world record time and the first swimmer - male or female - to win Olympic medals in five individual events in a single Olympics. Outside of swimming circles and Australia you probably haven’t heard of her but as a child/teenager, she was my idol.
She won Best Sportswoman in the World in 1971, Australian of the Year in 1972, entered Australia’s sporting Hall of Fame in 1985 and was declared a legend of Australian Sport in 1995.
And we were lucky enough to be at Stadium Australia on 15 September 2000 when the final succession of torchbearers entered the Olympic stadium for the opening ceremony of the Sydney Olympics. The final six runners were all women to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of female participation in the Olympics and included Shane Gould. The cauldron was eventually lit (see Olympic ceremony glitches) by Aboriginal athlete, Cathy Freeman who went on to win gold in the 400 metres sprint (that would be long-distance for me) which we were also lucky enough to witness at the stadium.
Shane Gould only attended one Olympics in Munich in 1972 which were overshadowed by the death of eleven Israeli athletes and coaches, the Munich Massacre. The 1972 Olympics were the second to be held in Germany following the demise of the Nazi regime and the West German government was keen to present a new, democratic, pacifist Germany but arising from the Munich Massacre, it instead formed an elite counter-terrorist unit, as you do. The events in Munich in 1972 were chronicled in the 2005 film, Munich starring Eric Bana.
Shane Gould retired after the Munich Olympics at the age of 17 owing to the pressures placed on her by the intensity of public and media interest. Unlike other athletes with legend status who earned this title over several Olympics, Shane achieved it in just one. I hope she isn't left to wonder what might have been possible and in hindsight, by today's standard of expected public invasion thanks to social media, it was no doubt a mild intrusion but not for a quiet unassuming 17-year-old.
One of the highlights of the 2000 Sydney Olympics - other than the sport - was getting home late every night to watch The Dream with Roy and HG. The Dream was unmissable particularly for Roy & HG's commentary on the less mainstream sports like water polo, Roman Greco wrestling and men's gymnastics. Terminology created by them in their fictional 'expert' commentaries is now etched in Australian vernacular eg everyone knows what is meant by 'Hello Boys'.