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Wilhelmina “Mina” Wylie – Swimming Legend

Wilhelmina “Mina” Wylie (1891 – 1984) was one of Australia’s first two female Olympic swimming champions, the other being her friend Fanny Durack (refer to Newsletter 28th March 2024). Wylie grew up in South Coogee, Sydney where her father Henry Wylie built Wylie’s Baths in 1907 – the oldest surviving communal sea baths in Australia. Wylie competed in NSW and Australian championships from 1906 to 1934, winning 115 titles.

Wylie and Durack persuaded officials to let them attend the 1912 Summer Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden, where women’s swimming events were held for the first time. Durack won a gold medal and Wylie a silver medal in the 100-metre final (pictured left – Fanny in cap). Following their success at the Games, the fame of Wylie and Durack spread worldwide. They toured America three times over the next few years and helped break down many taboos that prevented women from participating in elite swimming competitions.

Mina Wylie held world records in trudgen freestyle, backstroke and breaststroke. In 1911, 1922 and 1924 she won every Australian and NSW championship event in freestyle, backstroke and breaststroke. In 1922 Mina won the NSW 880-yards title by an extraordinary 110 yards. Mina Wylie lived the last forty years of her life in Neptune Street Coogee across the road from Wylie’s baths where a statue of her stands at the entrance. Mina Wylie was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1975 and the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 1992.

By Ria Bleathman, (Reproduced from the Brighton Iceberger Newsletter 25 April 2024).

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