Bonnie Mealing

Phillomena "Bonnie" Mealing (28 July 1912, Woolloomooloo - 1 January 2002 in Sydney) was an Australian freestyle and backstroke swimmer of the 1920s and 1930s, who won a silver medal in the 100m backstroke at the 1932 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, the first Australian to win a medal in backstroke.

At the age of 14 or 15, she was selected for the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam after only a year of competing at national level. After a long three month sea voyage, and a bout of homesickness, she gained weight during the voyage, finishing third and fourth in her heat of the 100m freestyle and backstroke respectively, and was eliminated. This brought condemnation from Australian journalists.

After the Olympics, Mealing abandoned the freestyle events to concentrate on the backstroke, and in February 1930, she set a world record of 1m 20.6s in the 100m backstroke. However, the Australian authorities decided against sending any female swimmers to the inaugural 1930 British Empire Games in Hamilton, Canada. By the time the 1932 Summer Olympics arrived, the 18 year old American swimmer Eleanor Holm had already cut 2s off her world record, and Holm easily defeated Mealing by 2s to claim the gold.

In 1933, Mealing set a world record in the 200m backstroke, but then retired from swimming, foregoing an opportunity to win gold at the 1934 British Empire Games in London. Phyllis Harding of England, whom Mealing defeated in Los Angeles, claimed the gold.


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