Dawn Fraser was born in Sydney, Australia. She was the youngest of 8 children and took up swimming because it helped ease her asthma.
Dawn was 19 years old when she won the gold in the 100 m freestyle at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. She was nicknamed 'water baby' when she anchored the Australian team to gold in the 4x100 freestyle relay. She also won silver in the 400 m freestyle.
She won the gold in the 100 m at the 1960 Rome Olympics too and then again at the 1964 Tokyo Games to become the first swimmer in Olympic history to win gold in the same event in three consecutive games.
At Tokyo, the 27-year-old startled the Japanese by climbing the flagpole at the emperor's palace and taking the flag as a souvenir! She paid a heavy price for this misdemeanour, being banned for ten years from international sports. The ban was later reduced to four years.
During her 9-year swimming career, Dawn set 28 world records and won 8 Olympic medals. She lowered the world mark in her pet event, the 100 m freestyle, no less than 10 times, swimming it under a minute in 1964.
Dawn Fraser was named Australia's greatest female athlete in 1988.