Phillomena Alecia "Bonnie" Mealing (28 July 1912 – 1 January 2002) was an Australian freestyle and backstroke swimmer of the 1920s and 1930s, who won a silver medal in the 100-metre backstroke at the 1932 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, the first Australian to win a medal in backstroke.

Bonnie Mealing
Bonnie Mealing 1928.jpeg
Mealing in 1928
Personal information
Full namePhillomena Alecia Mealing
National team Australia
Born(1912-07-28)28 July 1912
Woolloomooloo, New South Wales
Died1 January 2002(2002-01-01) (aged 89)
Sydney, New South Wales
Height1.60 m (5 ft 3 in)[1]
StrokesBackstroke, freestyle

At the age of 14 or 15, she was selected for the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam after only a year of competing at the national level. After a long three month sea voyage, and a bout of homesickness, she gained weight during the voyage, finishing third and fourth in her heat of the 100-metre freestyle and backstroke respectively, and was eliminated. This brought condemnation from Australian journalists.[1]

After the Olympics, Mealing abandoned the freestyle events to concentrate on the backstroke, and in February 1930, she set a world record of 1m 20.6 seconds in the 100-metre backstroke. However, the Australian authorities decided against sending any female swimmers to the inaugural 1930 British Empire Games in Hamilton, Canada. By the time the 1932 Summer Olympics arrived, the 18-year-old American swimmer Eleanor Holm had already cut 2 seconds off her world record, and Holm easily defeated Mealing by 2 seconds to claim the gold.[1]

In 1933, Mealing set a world record in the 200-metre backstroke, but then retired from swimming, foregoing an opportunity to win gold at the 1934 British Empire Games in London. Phyllis Harding of England, whom Mealing defeated in Los Angeles, claimed the gold.[1]

At her death in 2002, Mealing was the last surviving Australian medalist from the 1932 Olympics and the last surviving member of the Australian team to the 1928 Olympics.[2]


  1. ^ a b c d Bonnie Mealing Archived 15 July 2016 at the Wayback Machine.
  2. ^ Ian Hanson and Paul Quinlan (January 6, 2002) Passing of an Australian Swimming Legend.


  • Andrews, Malcolm (2000). Australia at the Olympic Games. Sydney, New South Wales: ABC Books. pp. 286–287. ISBN 0-7333-0884-8.

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