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Sportsmen and women ( ... and a horse and a boat).
Australians simply love their sport. It doesn't matter what kind of sport, where it is played, and whether it is for a championship on the other side of the world, or a local game played out in the "bush".
Australia has had a number of sport stars who have excelled on the world stage. Below is a very small selection of some of those men and women who have bought honour to themselves and their country.
A great many legendary athletes have not been included. Check out the links at the bottom of this page to find out about these and other great Australian athletes. More to come real soon.
Australia II was the first successful challenger for the America's Cup. The America's Cup is the most famous trophy in the sport of yachting, and the oldest active trophy in sports.
Designed by Ben Lexcen and built by Stephan Ward for owner Alan Bond, Australia II featured an innovative winged keel design developed by Lexcen.
The 12-Meter Class yacht Australia II represented the Royal Perth Yacht Club in its 1983 challenge for the America's Cup. The defender, the New York Yacht Club, had held the cup since 1851, dominating challengers and sustaining the longest winning streak in sports. Australia II was skippered by John Bertrand.
Australia II came from behind to prevail 4 races to 3. The victory was a landmark event for the nation of Australia.
The winged keel was the most notable design feature of the boat, and helped to make it very fast and manoeuvrable in many conditions. Still, many experts point out that Australia II had a number of significant strengths in addition to the keel. Australia's sail technology in particular had finally equaled or exceeded that of the Americans. Further, Bertrand made sure he and his crew was trained and refined to execute at the highest levels despite the pressure of this historical matchup.
In 1993, runner Cathy Freeman was eliminated in the semi-finals of the world championships. On the way back to Australia, she wrote on the back of an airsickness bag her goal for the 400m at the 1996 Olympics: "48.60 ATLANTA". In fact, she ran a 48.63 to earn the silver medal and become the first Australian Aboriginal athlete to earn a medal in an individual event.
Freeman won the 400m at the world championships of 1997 and 1999 and went to the Sydney Olympics as the favourite. Adding to the pressure she felt as an Australian favourite competing in Australia, and as an indigenous Australian, Freeman was chosen to the light the cauldron to open the Games. She went on to win a clear victory in the 400m final. All of Australia celebrated along with her. She also placed seventh in the 200m and fifth in the 4x400m relay.
Dawn Fraser is an Australian swimming legend. Dawn was born in 1937. Her family lived in Balmain, Sydney. With three brothers and four sisters, life in the Fraser's house was pretty hectic. Dawn was the youngest.
She had asthma and swimming helped her breathing. Although, Dawn liked all sports. Dawn's favourite brother, Don, used to take her to the pool. It was here that her love affair with the water began. A coach, Harry Gallagher, spotted Dawn. He offered to train her for nothing...and so began a magnificent swimming career.
Dawn qualified for the 1956 Melbourne Olympics and won gold in the 100 metres freestyle. She won 2 more gold medals at the 1958 Cardiff Commonwealth Games.
In 1960, it was time for the Rome Olympics. Dawn was twenty-three years of age and was also very independent and this often got her into trouble with officials. Dawn won the one hundred metres freestyle again.
Two years later, Dawn became the first woman to swim one hundred metres in less than a minute. In 1964, Dawn's mother died. It was just before the Tokyo Olympics and Dawn almost gave up swimming. But she kept going and went on to win a record third Olympic gold medal in the 100 metres.
Evonne Goolagong Cawley
Evonne Cawley, a member of the Wiradjuri people, was the first indigenous Australian to win a Wimbledon Tennis Championship in 1971.
She grew up in Barellan, country New South Wales, one of a family of eight children and moved to Sydney permanently in 1965, at the age of fourteen, to concentrate on her tennis career.
In 1970 she travelled to London to compete at Wimbledon for the first time and was a member of the Australian Federation Cup team in the same year. The year 1971 was a highlight of her career, as she won the French Open, the British Hard Court Championships and Wimbledon.
She won her second Wimbledon title in 1980, the first mother to do so since 1914.
Decades after his death, Phar Lap remains Australia's most famous racehorse: an ungainly horse whose great stamina helped him win 37 of his 51 races between 1929 and 1932.
Phar Lap was born in New Zealand and purchased for the bargain price of 160 pounds by trainer Harry Telford and American owner Dale Davis in 1927. The horse repaid them by winning over 66,000 pounds in purse money during his career.
Phar Lap was the favorite in the prestigious Melbourne Cup race three times, winning in 1930 and becoming a national hero in the process. After the 1931 Cup he was shipped to America to face new competition for bigger stakes. He won his first race, at Agua Calienti in Mexico, but never raced again: in April of 1932 he died suddenly at a ranch in California.
An autopsy indicated gastric trouble, but the precise cause was unclear, and many Australians believed the rumor that Phar Lap had been poisoned by enemies in the American racing industry. The champion's hide was stuffed and returned to the National Museum in Melbourne, where he remained a popular exhibit for decades.
There is always argument over who "owned" Phar Lap, Australia or New Zealand. In effect it was both. He was born in New Zealand, but would never have become the champion he was if he had not been trained and raced in Australia by Australians.
Sir Donald Bradman
The greatest of all batsmen, Sir Donald Bradman dominated the game of cricket from 1928 to 1948. Now usually referred to simply as "Bradman" or "The Don", Don Bradman was probably the most famous, the most respected, and the most loved of all Australian sportsmen and women.
In 52 test matches he averaged 99.94 - no other test batsman who has played a decent number of games comes anywhere close to his average.
Bradman is famous for many aspects of his career, but is probably most famous for his final innings. Needing only 4 runs to average 100 for his entire test career, The Don was bowled for a duck in his last inning against England. In that series (in 1948) Bradman captained an Australian cricket team that went undefeated for the whole tour - something unheard of at the time. That team came to be known as "The Invincibles", and Don Bradman as the greatest cricketer who ever lived.
Sir Jack Brabham
Sir Jack Brabham, the first driver in history to be knighted for his services to motorsport, remains one of racing’s most popular personalities.
The triple world champion is the only Formula One driver to have won a world title in a car of his own construction – the BT19 – which he drove to victory in 1966. The following year the Brabham team won its second successive world championship when New Zealander Denny Hulme drove the BT20 to victory.
Brabham established himself in Australian oval racing before switching to road racing in the early 1950’s. In 1955, he moved from Australia to Europe to race. Brabham's first two championship titles soon came in 1959 and 1960.
In 1962, Sir Jack teamed up with fellow Australian Ron Tauranac to produce the first of the Brabham Marque, the Brabham BT-3. The rest, as they say, is history.
Related weblinks -
• Learn about Australia's greatest sportsmen and women at the Sport Australia Hall of Fame - http://www.sahof.org.au/