Olympics

On ya ‘Straya! Australia’s best moments at the Olympics over the years

From 1956 and onwards.
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Over the years, the country’s top Olympians have been doing us proud. From Melbourne 1956 to Paris 2024, here are Australia’s best moments at the Olympics over the years.

Australia’s best moments at the Olympics

betty cuthbert 1956 olympics
Betty Cuthbert won four gold medals throughout her Olympic career. (Credit: Getty)

Betty Cuthbert takes home three Golds in Melbourne

During Australia’s first time hosting the Olympic games, sprinter Betty Cuthbert grabbed gold three times (in the 100-metres, 200-metres and the relay) at only 18 years old. She became known as the country’s “Golden Girl”.

In an interview with Channel Seven in 2012, Betty revealed that her Olympic career gave her a “sense of achievement” while fondly remembering the “friendships that (she’d) made”.

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Dawn Fraser won gold in three consecutive Olympics. (Credit: Getty)

Dawn Fraser swims her way to gold in Tokyo 1964

Legendary swimmer Dawn Fraser was crowned Australian of the Year in 1964 after winning a gold medal in the 100-metre freestyle. The athlete took out the top spot at three consecutive Olympics.

Dawn, who had lost her mum nine months before the race, told the International Olympic Committee that she was thinking of her mum all throughout the race.

“I looked up in the sky and felt my mother’s wedding ring on my finger and I said, ‘This is for you, Mum’,” Dawn said. “No one was going to beat me that night. It was the most special swim I had in my life. For my mum.”

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Cathy Freeman was asked to light the Olympic flame during the 2000 Sydney Games. (Credit: Getty)

Cathy Freeman becomes first Aboriginal Australian to win individual Gold medal

In Sydney 2000, Cathy Freeman won gold in the 400-metre athletics, becoming the first Aboriginal Australian to win an individual Olympic gold medal. Cathy also lit the Olympic flame during these games.

In an interview after the race, Cathy said she was feeling a lot of pressure in the lead up to the event.

When asked what her win meant for the Aboriginal community, Cathy emotionally replied: “A lot. I can’t explain to you how much. It’s very historical.”

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Alisa Camplin was surprised to see her family in attendance when she won her gold medal. (Credit: Getty)

Alisa Camplin becomes first ever female winter Olympic Gold Medallist

Freestyle skier Alisa Camplin became the first ever female to win a gold medal in the 2002 Winter Olympics after placing first in the freestyle skiing aerials in Salt Lake City.

In an interview with Channel Nine, Alisa said she had told her family not to come to the games but, unbeknownst to her, they had flown out anyway in case she got injured.

“I was so glad in the end I had my family there to celebrate because it wasn’t just my moment, my family had watched me try to get to the Olympics for 20 years. So it was our moment. And it was Australia’s moment.”

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The term “doing a Bradbury” has become a part of Australia’s lexicon. (Credit: Getty)

Steven Bradbury’s nabs unconventional Gold Medal

During the 2022 winter games, Steven shocked Olympic fans everywhere by winning the 1000-metre short track speed skating event only after the other qualifiers unexpectedly fell over mid race. Steven became the first athlete from the southern hemisphere to win a winter Olympic gold medal.

Since the unconventional win, the phrase “doing a Bradbury” has entered the Australian lexicon; and Steven is on board with it, telling Athletes Voice in 2018 that it makes him proud.

He also told the publication that he was initially hesitant to accept the gold considering the circumstances, but in the end he decided it was warranted considering all the training he had put in over the years.

“I’ve watched that medal ceremony many times, and I just looked 100 per cent apologetic more than anything up there on the podium… But back then, after I had a few quiet moments to myself, I decided I’d take the medal, not for that race itself, but for the 14 years of hard work in the lead-up to that race.”  

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Ian Thorpe won his fifth gold medal in the “race of the century”. (Credit: Getty)

Ian Thorpe wins his fifth gold in the “race of the century”

Athens 2004 was a big games for legendary Australian swimmer Ian Thorpe. The athlete dominated the 200-metre men’s freestyle, beating American Michael Phelps, setting an Olympic record and garnering the fifth gold of his career.

“When I look back at my swimming career, I am more impressed now than I was at the time, especially realising that I am now part of history,” Ian told Olympics.com in 2020.

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Matthew Mitcham ended a diving gold medal drought. (Credit: Getty)

Matthew Mitcham claims first gold in diving in 84 years

During Bejing 2008, diver Matthew Mitcham landed the country’s first gold in his sport since 1924. He was also the first openly gay athlete to win an Olympic gold medal.

In an interview with the official Olympics YouTube account, Matthew confessed winning gold was never in his “wildest dreams” and if anything, he was aiming for bronze.

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Sally Pearson was overcome with emotion when winning gold in London, 2012. (Credit: Getty)

Sally Pearson sets a new Olympic record

Sally Pearson’s reaction to winning gold in the London 2012 100-metre hurdles still warms hearts everywhere. The athlete also set an Olympic record time.

Three years after her win, Sally told the official Olympics YouTube account that she was “really nervous” but “really focused” in the lead-up to the race.

“The biggest hurdle for me was hurdle eight… I knew as soon as I got over that hurdle I was going to win the race.”

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The Australian women’s relay team defended their title. (Credit: Getty)

The freestyle relay team make history at Tokyo 2020

Cate Campbell, Bronte Campbell, Emma McKeon, and Meg Harris made Aussies proud when they won the country’s first gold medal for the 2020 games, beating the world record in the 4×100-metre event.

“Being a part of this relay especially always lifts you. I actually feel a bit more relaxed going in with the rest of them,” Emma said of swimming in a team, while Meg described the experience as “incredible”.

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Ariarne Titmus defeated legendary swimmer Katie Ledecky. (Credit: Getty)

Ariarne Titmus (and her coach) becomes a breakout star

Ariarne Titmus shocked Tokyo 2020 spectators when she beat legendary American swimmer Katie Ledecky in the 400-metre freestyle final.

The young swimmer’s coach Dean Boxall, in particular, was delighted by the result. And footage of him emphatically jumping around and gesticulating in celebration quickly went viral.

She then added yet another gold to her resume, winning the 200-metre freestyle and breaking a record in the process.

After her first gold, Ariarne said she always had big dreams when it comes to swimming.

“To finally be able to achieve something I have dreamt of, I’m really, really happy.”

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Australia loved Kaylee McKeown’s reaction to winning gold. (Credit: Getty)

Kaylee McKeown breaks a record and has no filter while doing it

In another swimming success, Kaylee McKeown broke an Olympic record when she won gold in the women’s 100-metre backstroke final at Tokyo 2020. While her father had sadly recently passed away from brain cancer, the rest of her family were watching proudly back home.

When asked if she had a message for her loved ones, Kaylee said: “F**k yeah – oops” during the live post-race interview.

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Australians rejoiced when Jess took home the gold. (Credit: Getty)

Jessica Fox takes home the gold and makes history in the process

Jess Fox made history when she took home her first-ever gold in the women’s C1 canoe slalom final. 2020 was the first time women were able to compete in the event.

After the country watched the athlete lament her bronze in the K1 final, it made the win all the more heartwarming, particularly for Jess’ dad who was commentating for both races. 

“That was beautiful, that was wild,” he said after his daughter won gold.

Jess herself spoke to Sunrise about her win, revealing what was going through her head before the race. 

“I just kept telling myself that I’d done the work, I deserve to do the best run that I can, I have all the skills, I just need to trust myself,” the athlete said.

“When I crossed that finish line there was so much joy and relief and pride for Australia.”

emma mckeon olympics
Emma is now the most successful Australian Olympian of all time (Credit: Getty)

Emma McKeon breaks Ian Thorpe’s record

At Tokyo 2020, Emma McKeon dominated the women’s 50-metre freestyle final in Olympic record time, followed by a stellar performance in the women’s medley relay.

With 11 Olympic medals to her name after the 2020 games, Emma surpassed that of legends Ian Thorpe and Leisel Jones, who each have nine. At the time, she had five Olympic gold medals, making her tied with Ian Thorpe for the most golds in Aussie history. Not only that, Emma was the first Australian to win four gold medals in a single games.

In a post-race interview, emotions were running high for the swimmer, who described the experience as “surreal”.

“I don’t usually say things like this but coming here, I wanted to win. I came here for gold. That’s what me and my coach, Michael Bohl, worked on. To finish now and I’ve got, what, four of them? I can’t believe it.

“It does mean a lot to me. It’s overwhelming … it’s pretty special, it’s pretty cool. I grew up watching swimming and watching amazing athletes do amazing things in Australia. I grew up wanting to do a similar thing.”

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The Aussie women’s team dominated the medley relay. (Credit: Getty)

The women’s relay team does Australia proud

Less than an hour after breaking an Olympic record in the 50-metre freestyle, Emma McKeon dived back into the pool to swim butterfly in the 4×100-metre women’s medley relay. She was joined by Kaylee McKeown, Chelsea Hodges, and Cate Campbell. The team came out on top, winning the race in a record time of 3:51:60.

While Emma had to rush off to a medal ceremony immediately after the event, the rest of the team hung around for an interview – and the post-race euphoria was evident. 

“Oh my gosh. I still just can’t believe that we just did that. That is an incredible effort by everyone,” Cate said, paying special mention to Emma in her absence.

“Being in a team is so much better. There is so much more hype around it and I’m with girls who are so decorated in the sport,” Kaylee also said.

Chelsea, who won her first gold in the race, was speechless, explaining that she was “pretty disappointed with how (she) went on Monday” and wanted to redeem herself.

“I just knew I needed to pick it up and I think I did that today.”

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