Dawn Fraser & Other Legends Invited To The League As Swimming’s New Era Gathers Pace

Pool Opening
Dawn Fraser heading a Swim Australia campaign to get every Aussie kid swimming - Photo Courtesy: Swim Australia

Dawn Fraser has been invited to the International Swimming League‘s Final Match in Las Vegas next month by the organisation’s founder and funder Konstantin Grigorishin.

If the now 82-year-old founding member of the triple Olympic crown club in the pool accepts the ticket, she will be one of the guests of honour in the VIP lounge and spectator stands for the showdown of the pioneering global Pro-Team League’s first season.

The move may sound like a no-brainer to many outside the sport. Those within swimming understand, however, that such a moves reflects a sea-change in the mindset of the sport.

That is summed up but this from Grigorishin on Fraser and how it reflects the revolution now underway in the pool:

“I know her story and that’s why I would like to invite her. I just love the way she was so disruptive.”

Imagine Fraser, who claimed the 1956, 1960 and 1964 Olympic 100m freestyle titles before being banned Debbie Meyer, Shane Gould, Janet Evans, Mary T Meagher, Mark Spitz, Roland Matthes, Alex Baumann, David Wilkie, Ian Thorpe, Michael Phelps and many more all be in one room.

It might just happen, as swimming embraces swimmers and the great stars of history in the pool as the people who make the guest list before a single blazer gets in.

Dawn Fraser

Dawn Fraser

Fraser and Evans are among those known to be on the invitation list for a seat in the VIP lounge and spectator stand for the ISL’s Final Match in Las Vegas, courtesy not only of Grigorishin but a VIP swimmer now leading a game-changing Athletes’ Union.

Swimming World revealed last Friday that Matt Biondi, a legend of swimming who claimed a pantheon of prizes at the Seoul 1988 Olympic Games alone, is the new director of the fledgling Union.

Twenty years after Biondi’s Olympic heights, FINA, the international federation, celebrated its Centenary dinner during the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. There was not a single great of swimming there at the invitation of the federation on pure grounds of recognising their soaring achievements.

Now, Grigorishin has added weight to Biondi’s wish to see some of the legends of swimming brought back into the fold in the way SwimVortex proposed back in 2015 when this author penned a “Swimbledon” what-it-could-be-like feature in which traditional competition formats were left to big championship moments in a new space where the former greats of the sport were welcomed back to the fold and not lost to swimming because their view did not match that of the blazers in charge.

Grigorishin’s fledgling League embraces some of those concepts – and Fraser is top of his list of rebels with a cause whose presence he craves in the global pro-pool.

“Dawn Fraser is a legend and I am going to invite her,” Grigorishin told Swimming World. “I really hope she can make it to vegas because it would be fantastic for the whole sport and for our event.”

“I know her story and that’s why I would like to invite her. I just love the way she was so disruptive. She took her fight to the water and to those in charge if she thought they were getting it wrong.”

Olympic gold and a Kangaroo in her pouch

Dawn Fraser – Photo Courtesy: Dawn Fraser Collection

Now 82, Fraser never earned a cent during her racing days in the amateur era. She worked three jobs to pay her way years after being threatened with expulsion from the sport at the age of 12. Her crime is well described by Julian Linden at the Aussie Telegraph when he writes:

“When she was just 12 years old, Swimming Australia handed Fraser a two year suspension after she was given a clock for winning a race, which was deemed to be a breach of the rules.”

In Tokyo at the 1964 Games, she took a flag and ruffed blazer feathers – and they banned her for enough time to make sure she never came back. Fraser had the last laugh of late when she was made a life member of the federation that once booted the biggest name in the sport out of the pool.

Fraser is Grigorishin’s kind of athlete:

“I like people with life in them. Dawn Fraser was not a robot. She had something to prove, something to say; she was a fantastic swimmer but she was more than that. She is a great personality, which I have very much respect for. In sport, we need personalities, not just times ion the clock. Swimming needs that more than other sports and we’re trying to achieve that.”



Matt Biondi, the director of the Athletes’ Union, with Adam Peaty in London – Photo Courtesy: Craig Lord

Biondi revealed to Swimming World last Friday that he is involved in the process of wooing greats of the sport back to the pool they felt they had to walk away from a long time ago.

The League final in Vegas looks set to be a cracking finale for the sport in 2019, with Energy Standard, Cali Condors, LA Current and London Roar set to send smoke off the water.

When it clears, look up at the VIP stands. Gone the men in suits. In their place, Fraser, Biondi and Co.

A new era is underway.

Swimming – A Skill For Life

Dawn Fraser pinned her name to the mast and helm of a move to get every Australian child learning to swim back in 2016.

Fellow Olympic gold medallist, the kayaker Ken Wallace and his three-year-old son Nixon were on hand at a launch that year for an initiative from Swim Australia, the industry body for more than 600 Swim Schools Down Under.

Said Fraser: “Learning to swim is an asset for life. It is so important or all Australian children to learn to swim; this country of ours is an island; we are surrounded by water no matter where we go; you only have to go into the country, there’s damns, rivers, lakes and creeks which is why every child in this country must learn to swim.

“We go out in boats and sometimes we put life jackets on and sometimes we don’t. If they fall overboard they can’t swim and we lose them. We don’t want to lose any more children. We have had too many drownings in this country over the last 10 years so let’s do something about it.”

In words that could be echoed the world over, Fraser added: “To hear of another child drowning makes me very sad; just today we heard of another tragedy of a toddler who drowned in a backyard pool; there was another last week and recently we tragically we lost two young sisters who climbed over the swimming pool fence. It is so alarming to hear of the tragic loss of life – it is never too early or too young to get your children learnt to swim.

“I know with my own grandson who wanted to ride a jet ski – I made him swim 400 metres in case he got into trouble and so he could get back to shore. That is one of the stipulations I put on him and I think we should do that with all our children. That’s why I’m supporting Swim Australia to encourage every Australian child to learn to swim. My message is loud and clear to mums and dads “teach your kids to swim – it’s an asset for life and it can save their lives.”

“Go to a Swim Australia accredited swim school and you know you will be in the safest hands and start swimming every day – the more you swim the better you get at it.”