Swim star explores Tassie delights
As the Commonwealth Games drew to a close, swimming great – Susie O’Neill – was exploring Tasmania but she still kept a close eye on the action especially on teen sensation, Ariarne Titmus.
Susie O’Neill, AKA ‘Madam Butterfly’, is one of Australia’s most decorated swimmers winning eight Olympic medals, including two golds, over three games: 1992 Barcelona, 1996 Atlanta, 2000 Sydney.
We caught up with Susie as she played tourist on a perfect Tasmanian day, and not long after her starring role in the Gold Coast games opening ceremony where she jumped out of a Kombi Van holding the Queen’s Baton.
“That was a big honour because the Commonwealth Games is very special to me,” Susie explained.
“It was the 1982 Commonwealth Games in my home-town Brisbane that actually inspired my swimming career. I was nine years old at the time and my teacher got us to do a project on the Games, and I remember cutting out all the articles in the newspapers.
“The whole thing was really exciting.
“So, it is unbelievable that I was still part of the Commonwealth Games and involved in the opening ceremony after all those years.”
In fact, it was shortly after the Games opening that Susie headed south for a week’s holiday in Tasmania with a group of family and friends, including surgeon husband Cliff Fairley, and children Alix (13) and Bill (12).
“I visited Tasmania in the 90’s for various swimming championships, but I didn't get to see anything other than pools,” Susie said.
“This is the first time I have been here as a tourist, and it is fantastic.”
“I just didn’t realise how beautiful Tasmania is. It is like being in a different country especially with all the amazing historic architecture.”
It was one of those stunning autumn days – sunny and still – that Tasmania does so well, and a pod of bottlenose dolphins escorted us down the Derwent River as we motored towards Bruny.
On arrival, the boat anchored in a secluded cove where a seafood feast of local produce was spread out: plump Bruny Island oysters, melt-in-your-mouth salmon, local cheeses and berries, all washed down with Tasmanian wine and beer.
There were also sea urchins, plucked fresh from the water by skipper Kate Wilson.
“It was such an amazing thing with Kate diving off the boat and collecting about six or eight sea urchins for our lunch in just a matter of minutes,” Susie said.
“That was definitely one of the highlights.”
As the forty-four-year old explained: “We love activity-based holidays and could not have been more impressed with the track. The views were breathtaking, and it is very family friendly.”
The huts along the way – complete with fully equipped kitchens – also scored a big tick.
“It meant we didn’t have to carry all those heavy pots and pans and things to cook with,” she said.
“You could just turn up after a day’s trek, have a fantastic meal and enjoy a red wine with a view.”
The wine may have been flowing and the views distracting, but Susie still managed to keep close watch on all the Commonwealth Games action.
She praised Tasmania as punching ‘well above its weight’. Its athletes eventually bringing home a haul of 16 medals, including 10 gold and two team gold.
However, it was Tassie teen sensation, Ariarne Titmus, that really caught the attention of the swimming great.
Susie said swimming-dynamo Ariarne, who won three gold medals in the 400m, 800m and 4 x 200m freestyle, and silver in the 200m freestyle, has the potential to go all the way to the top.
“Ariarne is perfectly positioned to win a medal at the next Olympics in Tokyo in two years’ time.
“She is a wonder.”
Image courtesy of Rob Heazlewood
View our video of Susie O’Neill’s trip to Bruny Island with Pennicott Wilderness Journeys:
8 May 2018, Edition 194