The swimmer

When I saw the following image on the Rumi page on Facebook the other day I couldn’t help but think of Ian Thorpe.


I am sure we all wish him well.

I don’t know Ian Thorpe, but I have known people who do know him and I have posted about him over the years. For example:

Did you watch The Swimmer last night?

Posted on July 16, 2012 by Neil

I did.  That I have long been interested in Ian Thorpe may be seen on my blogs over the past twelve years!

And then to go way back: Blogging the Noughties: 1 – 2000.


1. Being in Sydney for the Olympic Games. Although I only saw a few things “live” it was just great being in this city at that time. I apologise again to Ian Thorpe for allowing my little infatuation with that Dutchman to divert my support from Ian–and then Ian lost that race!…

But back to last night. I did enjoy the program on ABC at 7.30 and it confirms what we all know – that Ian Thorpe is one very interesting man – though not so young at 30 I guess.


I have known swimmers in my time too.


That is my cousin Beverley Whitfield with the Mayor of Shellharbour, Keith Grey (a contemporary of my parents in Shellharbour), on her return from the Munich Olympics in 1972 – and yes, I have held that gold medal in my hand! This is a famous image of Bev at Munich:

Beverley-Whitfield-won-a-gold-medal-in-the-200m-brea-5861293 (1)

Beverley died at the age of just 42 in 1996.

Australian swimmer Beverley Whitfield, a gold medallist in the 200 metres breaststroke at the 1972 Olympic Games, was found dead at her home on Wednesday (August 21), aged 42. Whitfield, who also won a bronze medal in the 100 metres breaststroke in Munich, had been suffering from influenza, police said in a statement. Her body was found in bed on Tuesday night (August 20) by a flatmate in their apartment near Wollongong, 60 km (37 miles) south of Sydney, police said. Australian Olympic Committee president John Coates described Whitfield as a long-time supporter and friend of Australia’s Olympic family and said her death was a tragic and unexpected loss. Whitfield won three gold medals at the 1970 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh.

I believe it was heart failure, as Andy Gerke, her uncle and first swimming teacher,  told me at the funeral, though she had had the flu as that says.

I attended the funeral. I had not seen much of her, I have to say, in her later years as my own father’s illness rather kept us away from our Shellharbour family and pretty much exclusively in Sydney. But I do know that life after swimming for her involved much social service. There is an excellent blog entry about her now on Shellharbour’s Local History.

Beverley later worked as a youth worker for the New South Wales Department of Youth and Community Services in Shellharbour and Wollongong.

Shellharbour City Council is keeping alive the inspirational story of the local Olympic gold medallist and record holder, through an award program, “The Beverley Whitfield Award” for budding champions of the pool. The award was introduced in 2001, and is now presented annually to the senior male and female swimming champions at each of the primary schools in the Shellharbour Local Government Area.

Known as the “Darling of Shellharbour”, sadly Beverley died in 1996 at age forty two. Her funeral was attended by many Australian Sporting Champions.

It surely was! Dawn Fraser was handing out the orders of service at the door.