PIONEER: Former Roma Olympian Denise Spencer.
PIONEER: Former Roma Olympian Denise Spencer. Maranoa Regional Council

Remembering Roma's first Olympian, Denise Spencer

SWIMMING: When Emilee Cherry and Madison Wilson enter the Olympic Stadium on the weekend for the Opening Ceremony in Rio, they'll be the first Roma-born athletes to compete since Denise Spencer nearly 70 years ago.

Aside from Darren Thrupp, Spencer is Roma's only Olympic athlete, having swum for Australia in the 1948 London Olympics and the 1950 Empire Games (now Commonwealth Games).

Born in 1929, the 18-year-old became a local sensation when she qualified for London, swimming in the 100m and 400m freestyle events, reaching the semi-finals in the latter.

Spencer was a medallist at the Empire Games in New Zealand, and was the Australia female title holder for the 100m, 200m, 400m and 800m freestyle events.

While she didn't win a medal at an Olympic level, her achievements so soon after WWII were credited for "setting the stage for women like Dawn Fraser, to dominate world swimming” (Lawrie Kavanagh, Courier-Mail).

The local pool is named after her, as well as Spencer St.

She passed away in Brisbane in 1998 at the age of 69.



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