SYDNEY (AP) Dawn Fraser will return to Japan this week to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Tokyo Olympics, where she won fame in the swimming pool and notoriety outside the arena.
The Australian swimming great won her third consecutive Olympic gold medal in the 100-meter freestyle in Tokyo, following her victories at Melbourne in 1956 and Rome in 1960.
But she was later banned by Australian swimming authorities, ending her Olympic career, after being arrested by Japanese police for attempting to pinch a flag to keep as a souvenir following a party on the last day of the games.
While the incident probably helped to cement her part in Australia’s sporting folklore, the now 77-year-old Fraser said she would ”think twice about souveniring a flag.”
In a statement announcing Fraser’s return visit, Australian Olympic Committee historian Harry Gordon said the win in Tokyo, in which Fraser became the first woman to break one minute for the 100 meters, was achieved against a background of adversity.
Fraser was seriously injured in a car crash in 1964 which claimed the life of her mother. She spent nine weeks in a steel brace but recovered to swim 59.5 seconds in her semifinal and an Olympic record in the final.
The achievement was partly overshadowed by the flag episode. She injured her ankle in the incident but carried the Australian flag in the closing ceremony.
A later an investigation by the Australian Swimming Union resulted in Fraser being banned from swimming for 10 years, a punishment which was later reduced to four years.
”The flag incident was an over-reaction by swimming officials considering I had been given exemption for a week from the Olympic team when it happened,” Fraser said.
Gordon described the then 27-year-old Fraser as ”uninhibited with a rugged streak of independence and a self-confessed talent for attracting trouble.”
She will return to Japan this week with her daughter, her grandson and 15 members of the 1964 Australian Olympic team.