Poll position for skater, but Fraser named greatest

Poll position for skater, but Fraser named greatest

Dawn Fraser was crowned Australia's greatest female athlete in a ceremony at Parliament House on Wednesday night, but had the voting public got its way the gong could have gone to a skater from the Canberra Roller Derby League nicknamed ShortStop.

The ceremony was the culmination of Sport for Women Day, an event held to discuss the development and promotion of women in sport, but the list of the top 100 female athletes released on Wednesday is sure to cause plenty more debate.

Dawn Fraser on Wednesday night in Canberra.

Dawn Fraser on Wednesday night in Canberra.Credit:Melissa Adams

Few could argue that Fraser, named Athlete of the Century by the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 1999, did not deserve the honour as this country's greatest female athlete.

But there were plenty of surprises in the top 100, including the exclusion of Australia's most decorated Olympic female swimmer Leisel Jones and two-time world 400-metre hurdles champion Jana Pittman.

Natalie Cook, Dawn Fraser, Kerri Pottharst and Layne Beachley.

Natalie Cook, Dawn Fraser, Kerri Pottharst and Layne Beachley.Credit:Melissa Adams

And things could have got a little more alarming had the list been left in the public's hands.

There were 246 nominees and the public was given eight months to vote via the website sportforwomen.com.au. It's understood fans of roller derby, a contact sport involving teams of five on roller skates, launched an online campaign, with Christine Murray - who has the nickname ShortStop - leading the public vote.

Andy Turnbull of Sports Hydrant, organisers of the event, would not back down from the list of 100.

''What I would like to say is that online they [roller derby fans] were very vociferous and supportive of their champions,'' Turnbull said.

Layne Beachley with husband Kirk Pengilly.

Layne Beachley with husband Kirk Pengilly.Credit:Melissa Adams

''There were 246 nominations which came from the sports themselves based on their hall of fame and the general public. The public were then asked to vote on it and then we have moderated it … clearly you can't take a popularity vote. We've basically taken advice from sport and key opinion formers within sport and added it to the public vote to create that list.

''It was a process and I am happy for there to be debate.''

Fraser, who won gold medals in the 100m swimming at three consecutive Olympics, was named at No.1 ahead of former champion sprinter Betty Cuthbert and seven-time world surfing champion Layne Beachley.

There were 13 swimmers named in the top 100, but in an obvious oversight there was no place for Jones, Australia's most decorated female Olympian with nine medals from four Games.

Pittman was set to attend the event as a guest speaker but was a late withdrawal. She was also absent from the top 100.

Canberra Capitals star and London Olympics flag bearer Lauren Jackson was No.5 on the list. Heather McKay, one of the most formidable women's squash players in history, was named the ACT's top sportswoman.

McKay, who was undefeated in competitive squash from 1962-81, was given the award by ACT chief minister Katy Gallagher as part of Canberra's centenary celebrations.

The award for the greatest team was presented to the gold medal-winning Hockeyroos from the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

Beachley said the success of Wednesday's event would not be lost amid the debate of the top 100.

Administrators and athletes from across Australia came to Canberra for the one-day workshop, with an agenda for women's sport presented to Sports Minister Kate Lundy at the conclusion of the event.


1. Dawn Fraser (swimming)
2. Betty Cuthbert (athletics)
3. Layne Beachley (surfing)
4. Margaret Court (tennis)
5. Lauren Jackson (basketball)
6. Heather McKay (squash)
7. Rechelle Hawkes (hockey)
8. Shirley Strickland (athletics)
9. Anna Meares (cycling)
10. Cathy Freeman (athletics)
11. Karrie Webb (golf)
12. Liz Ellis (netball)
13. Elizabeth Kosmala (shooting Paralympics)
14. Belinda Clark (cricket)
15. Louise Sauvage (athletics Paralympics)
16. Julie Murray (soccer)
17. Shane Gould (swimming)
18. Susie O’Neil (swimming)
19. Evonne Goolagong (tennis)
20. Sharelle McMahon (netball)
21. Betty Wilson (cricket)
22. Marjorie Jackson-Nelson (athletics)
23. Cheryl Salisbury (soccer)
24. Sally Pearson (athletics)
25. Alyson Annan (hockey)

The rest (in no particular order): Emma Snowsill, Lydia Lassila, Chantelle Newbery, Nova Peris, Amanda Sparks, Anna Segal, Carmen Marton, Carol Cooke, Christine Murray, Eloise Amberger, Emily Seebohm, Jessica Trengove, Jodi Willis-Roberts, Julie Corletto, Kim Crow, Kristy Judd, Leah Percy, Liane Tooth, Louise Winchester, Maddison Elliott, Megan Marcks, Mirinda Carfrae, Natalie Porter, Sharni Williams, Alicia Coutts, Alisa Camplin, Anne Sargeant, Annette Kellerman, Bev Francis, Caroline Buchanan, Cindy-Lu Fitzpatrick, Debbie Flintoff-King, Debbie Watson, Deborah Acason, Decima Norman, Ellyse Perry, Fanny Durack, Gillian Rolton, Glynis Nunn, Heidi Wittesch, Jacqueline Freney, Jacqui Cooper, Jayme Richardson-Paris, Jessica Palmer, Jessicah Schipper, Julie Dolan, Karen Rolton, Kate Gynther, Kathryn Watt, Kay Cottee, Kerri Pottharst, Kirstie Marshall, Lauren Mitchell, Lauren Burns, Leanne Tander, Libby Trickett, Liesl Tesch, Lisa Sthalekar, Loudy Wiggins, Michele Timms, Michelle Martin, Natalie Cook, Nikki Hudson, Pam Burridge, Petria Thomas, Raelene Boyle, Sally Fitzgibbons, Sam Stosur, Shannon McFerran, Simone Wearne, Stephanie Gillmore, Susie Ramadan, Torah Bright, Tracey Wickham, Zali Steggall.

HAVE YOUR SAY: Tell us below in the comments section who should have or should not have made the list.

Chris Wilson is the sports editor at The Canberra Times.

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