Shane Gould was Inducted into The Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 1985 as an Athlete Member for her contribution to the sport of swimming and was Elevated to “Legend of Australian Sport” in 1996.
Gould won more medals in a single Olympic Games than any other Australian female athlete before her. Between July 1971 and January 1972, the 15 year old set world records in all five internationally recognised freestyle distances: the 100m (58.5), 200m (2:05.8), 400m (4:21.2), 800m (8:58.1) and 1500m (17:00.6), the most versatile swimmer the world had seen.
At just 15, Gould stamped herself as the greatest female swimmer of her time, winning three gold, one silver and one bronze in her only Olympics – the 1972 Munich Games. Her record tally of five medals at a single Olympics stood from 1972 until Ian Thorpe equalled it in 2000. In one short period from April 13, 1971 until January 8, 1972, Gould set seven world records.
She entered the 1972 Munich Olympics with such an overpowering reputation that the swimmers from the United States tried to build their own confidence by wearing t-shirts that read “All that glitters is not Gould”. In Munich, Gould would eventually swim in 12 races over an eight day period, logging 4200m of competitive swimming in the process.
She began with the 200m individual medley, in which she used her freestyle strength to take the lead after 170m and win her first gold medal by breaking Claudia Kolb’s four year old world record in a time of 2:23.07. The next day, Gould finished third in the 100m freestyle behind Americans Sandy Nielson and Shirley Babashoff. It was Gould’s first loss at the distance in two years.
She rebounded the next day to win the 400m freestyle easily, breaking her own world record by more than two seconds in 4:19.04. Two days later, Gould earned her third gold medal and set her third world record in five days when she won the 200m freestyle in 2:03.56, by holding off Babashoff’s strong finish. Gould closed out her Olympic performance with silver in the 800m freestyle.
She broke one of the oldest records in the books when she beat Dawn Fraser’s 100m world record in Sydney on January 8, 1972 with a time of 58.5 seconds. Fraser had held the record for almost 16 years since the 1956 Melbourne Games.
In February 1973, she went on to break the 1500m world record in Adelaide in 16:56.9 seconds. She held a total of eight Australian titles between 1971 and 1973 and broke 21 Australian records. A year after the Olympics, Gould retired from competition at the age of 16.
Gould set a masters world record in 2003 for the 45-49 years in the 200m individual medley, with a time of 2:38.13, and has set various Australian masters records including the 100m, 200m, and 400m freestyle and the 50m and 100m butterfly.
In 1971 and 1972 Gould was World Swimmer of the Year and in 1972 she was Australian of the Year. In 1977 she was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame at Fort Lauderdale and in 1981 she was made a Member of the British Empire (MBE) for her services to swimming.
Honours & Awards
World Swimmer of the Year in 1971 and 1972
Australian of the Year in 1972
Inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1977
Made a Member of the British Empire (MBE) in 1981
Inducted into The Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 1985
Became a Member of the Order (AM) in 2018