Swimming the natural way, Maria Island (AOT, PH30/1/5810)

Swimming was enjoyed by Tasmanians through the nineteenth century. The Sandy Bay Amateur Swimming Club, formed in 1898, was the first swimming club in Tasmania, and is one of the oldest surviving in Australia. More clubs formed around the state, and by 1911 there were associations in both the north and south. A combined body was formed in 1912 which affiliated with the Australian Swimming Union, and was renamed Tasmanian Amateur Swimming Association (TASA) in 1915.

Tasmanian swimmers entered in Australian championships, which from 1930 included events for women. That year the championships were held in the Sandy Bay baths. Top of the World club member Janet Weidenhofer, a diver in the British Empire Games in 1938, was the first Tasmanian to represent Australia. In 1936 TASA had 278 registered members, and this number grew to a record 1104 in 1959, when the Hobart Olympic Pool opened and the Australian Championships were held in Hobart for the first time since 1939. Other pools were built round the state. In 1997 the Hobart Olympic Pool was replaced with a three-pool aquatic centre which has hosted national and international competitions.

Swimming pool at Cataract Gorge, Launceston, undated (Tasmaniana Library, SLT)

Diving, water polo and synchronised swimming were a part of TASA from 1960 until 1982 when they formed their own controlling bodies. In 1988 TASA underwent a name change to Tasmanian Swimming Inc. In the 2003-04 season there were 21 affiliated clubs, and 1717 registered members.

As well as Janet Weidenhofer, other Tasmanians who represented Australia were Sandra Yost, Elizabeth Jack, Audrey Moore, Julie Kent, Brett Stocks and Scott Goodman. In 1965 Virginia Cooper won Tasmania's first national swimming gold medal, in the 220 yards backstroke. A member of Sandy Bay club, Virginia qualified for her first national final in 1962. Her national medals total one gold, two silver and four bronze. In 1965 she was named Tasmanian Sportsman of the year. Audrey Moore was the first Tasmanian to win a Commonwealth Games swimming medal, with a bronze in the 100 metres backstroke in 1982. She also swam in the Olympic Games in 1984, and the Commonwealth Games in 1986.

A lack of adequate diving facilities forced Elizabeth Jack to move to Canada in 1975. Aged seventeen, she was selected as Australia's youngest-ever diver for the 1976 Olympics in the 3-metre and platform events. She competed for Canada in international events and was their head diving coach, but returned to Tasmania in 1990 as director of the Tasmanian Institute of Sport, and in 2000 managed diving at the Sydney Olympics. Julie Kent won the platform diving gold medal at the 1983 World Age Group Championships. She represented Australia at two Commonwealth Games, in 1982 and 1986 where she won a bronze medal She was also selected in two Olympic Games teams, in 1984 and 1988. At national senior championships Julie won fourteen medals.

Further reading: E Valentine, 75 years of swimming in Tasmania, Hobart, 1985; Sandy Bay Swimming Club, 100 Years of swimming, Hobart, 2001; L Mickleborough, 'Top of the World Amateur Swimming and Lifesaving Club', THRAPP 46/2, 1999.

Leonie Mickleborough