Addison Street, Shellharbour Village, 1927.

Wednesday 8 January 2014

Beverley Whitfield

Shellharbour resident Beverley Whitfield, born in 1954, was an Australian Olympic swimmer and record holder.

She grew up in Shellharbour and attened Shellharbour Public School until the pursuit of her dream took her first to Sydney and later to the American town of Midland, Texas. From the age of 11 she was coached by Terry Gathercole, recognised as Australia’s finest breaststroke coach.

In 1969, after he became head coach at Midland, she joined him, boarding with his family and attending a local high school. It was a costly mission, unassisted by any kind of sponsorship and paid for by her family. Later, on her return to Australia, Gathercole arranged for her to join Don Talbot’s squad.

She won a gold and bronze medal representing Australia in the breaststroke events at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games, Germany. She also won three gold medals in the 1970 Edinburgh Commonwealth Games and two silver medals in the 1974 Christchurch Commonwealth Games.
  Shellharbour Council held a Civic Reception in Beverley's honour on her return from the 1972 Munich Olympic Games. 

Beverley later worked as a youth worker for the New South Wales Department of Youth and Community Services in Shellharbour and Wollongong.

Shellharbour City Council is keeping alive the inspirational story of the local Olympic gold medallist and record holder, through an award program, "The Beverley Whitfield Award" for budding champions of the pool. The award was introduced in 2001, and is now presented annually to the senior male and female swimming champions at each of the primary schools in the Shellharbour Local Government Area.

Known as the “Darling of Shellharbour”, sadly Beverley died in 1996 at age forty two. Her funeral was attended by many Australian Sporting Champions.

Beverley's name and achievements have been honoured in the Shellharbour Hall of Fame.


Olympic gold medal winner Beverley Whitfield with Mayor Keith Grey and Mrs. Grey. Photo - Shellharbour Images, Shellharbour City Libraries

Above: Beverley Whitfield showing her Olympic Gold Medal. (Photo: Shellharbour Images, Shellharbour City Libraries)


Above: Opening of the Beverley Whitfield Pool named in her honour in Shellharbour, 1994.
Below L to R: Edgar (Dunc) Gray, Mayor Cec Glenholmes, Beverley Whitfield, Andy Gerke and Terry Gathercole.
(Photos: Shellharbour Images, Shellharbour City Libraries)


  1. This brings back many memories of my cousin Max's younger daughter. I remember that Civic Reception very well.

  2. Remember swimming at Shellharbour Pool as a child prior to the Olympics. Bev would be doing her trining with her timber paddles on her hands. As it was a public swimming pool everyone would be in there as she trained, and we would just hop out of her way as she came down the lane. After Bev came back from the 1972 Olympics, my sister and I picked some daisies from our garden and took them up to her. Bev then put her medal around our necks. We were in awe of her.

  3. Wow! Great memories! Thank you for sharing.


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