Swimming Champion Susie Maroney on her biggest challenge yet

The Aussie swim star is embarking on a new phase in life.

Devastated by her beloved mother’s death, Susie Maroney burst into tears every time she visited the supermarket where they had shopped together. It was the same story at the library, like so many other landmarks in her lifelong Sydney home.

Suddenly bright and carefree Cronulla, where the marathon swim star grew up, seemed like a sad and alien place. Without her “best friend” and mentor Pauline, who passed away in December 2020, Susie was a fish out of water.

“I never imagined myself ever leaving Cronulla, because I know it so well,” smiles the battling single mother of three, celebrated as the first woman ever to swim from Cuba to the USA.

“But there was just too much grief and too many memories.

“I spent every single day with Mum in the four years she had oesophageal cancer. I took her shopping, helped out with her feeding tube. There was such a strong connection, even more than we usually had.

“Once she was gone I felt so alone, but I knew I had to be a strong mum for my own children. We needed a fresh start and I knew it was now or never. The idea came from a mix of sadness for Mum, but also wanting to get my happiness back.”

Susie Maroney
“I never imagined myself ever leaving Cronulla, because I know it so well.” (Credit: Philip Castleton)

A new life beckoned for Susie, who has overcome so many struggles – being born with cerebral palsy, three divorces, the loss of two unborn babies, melanoma and the tragic death of her triathlete twin brother Sean, who fell from a hotel balcony in Hawaii aged 27.
Undaunted by yet another challenge, she put her little family’s Cronulla house on the market, bought another on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast – sight unseen –loaded her kids in the car and headed north.

“I probably did all the wrong things, but it was kind of weird because it worked out perfectly. Everything just fell into place,” laughs Susie, who is convinced her mother travelled with them in spirit. “I’d always loved Queensland and the kids were excited by the idea as well. We drove up to the Sunshine Coast slowly over three days and it was like a real adventure.”

Today, Susie works as a lifeguard and teacher at a nearby swimming pool. Meanwhile children Paris, Capri and River – now aged 15, 13 and 11 – are enrolled at local schools. All athletic, Paris is particularly fascinated by her mum’s swimming career and dreams of one day conquering the English Channel herself.

“She loves ocean swims, so if there’s one coming up, we do it together,” explains the proud mum, who turns 50 later this year. “I told her maybe we can do the Channel one day as a mother/daughter, but to be honest, I’ve done every swim I wanted, so I don’t feel I have to go back and complete any more.”

Susie Maroney
Susie Maroney with her children Paris, Capri and River. (Credit: Philip Castleton)

With her big milestone birthday coming up, Susie Maroney OAM is settling into a happy place. She still gets lost driving around her new neighbourhood, but has made friends and couldn’t be more content.

“At the moment, I just like my little bubble,” she says. “I’m hoping life will be easier after 50. I’ve moved, gone through a lot of pain losing my mum – now I can focus on the children going through their teenage years.

“I can tell you though, I’m definitely never dating again! I’ve learnt to be on my own, going through break-ups. I realise you don’t need a man to have a full life and absolutely enjoy it.

“I don’t feel old, 50 really is just a number. It’s all very mental … I’ve made a friend at the pool who’s 94 and he told me his secret. You just have to keep moving. And that’s true. You just have to keep moving and there are good times and bad times, no matter what.”

Recently, Susie watched the Netflix movie about controversial long-distance swimmer Diana Nyad, who set out to swim from Cuba to Florida aged 60 – without a shark cage – 30 years after her failed first attempt.

Would she like to see a film about her own enduring achievements? Susie chuckles. “I really wouldn’t care, but it would be a great thing to have for the kids I guess.” And who would she like to play her?

“Well, I don’t know,” she grins. “But I’ve always loved Drew Barrymore!”

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