Kitty Mackay: Olympian
Featured Image: Kitty Mackay and Evelyn De Lacy training in the Olympic Pool, Berlin 1936
1936 год. Август. Германия. Берлин. Австралийские пловчихи Китти Маккей (Kitty Mackay) (слева) и Эвелин де Лаки (Evelyn de Lacy) одновременно прыгают в бассейн. Автор фото – Hanns Hubmann
The year 1936. August. Germany. Berlin. Australian swimmer Kitty Mackay (Kitty Mackay left) and Evelyn de Lacy (Evelyn de Lacy) simultaneously jumping into the pool. Author of photo-Hanns Hubmann
Ethel Ellen “Kitty” Mackay (later Hodgson, 5 June 1915 Melbourne – 25 June 1974 Sydney) was an Australian swimmer. She competed in the 100 m freestyle and 100 m backstroke events at the 1936 Summer Olympics, but did not reach the finals. Former Scone resident Bill Kendall was also in the team as men’s freestyle champion. NZ middle distance runner Jack Lovelock was the sole gold medalist in the ‘combined’ AUS/NZ team. He won the 1500m.
Not too many families can boast an Olympian in their ranks. In 1936 there were a whole lot fewer. Sarah ‘Fanny’ Durack had famously paved the way in the Stockholm Summer Olympics 1912 becoming the first Australian female swimmer to win a gold medal; in the 100 metres freestyle. Kitty had five elder siblings: Jack, Alice (‘Woodgie), Ken, Bob and Bill who are featured elsewhere on this blog site. It may be baby Kitty was the ‘star’ of a high achieving sextet?
Larry Writer is an award-winning author with an interest in sport, history and crime. His book ‘Dangerous Games’ is a brilliant expose of perhaps the most ‘infamous’ modern Olympics?
A team of 33 Australian athletes competed in the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. Poorly prepared and with limited support, they bravely faced formidable competition. Larry Writer recreates their experience so vividly we can imagine ourselves in the famous stadium surrounded by swastikas.
This is a tale of innocents abroad. Thirty-three athletes left Australia in May 1936 to compete in the Hitler Olympics in Berlin. Believing sporting competition was the best antidote to tyranny, they put their qualms on hold; anything to be part of the greatest show on earth.
Dangerous Games drops us into a front row seat at the 100,000-capacity Olympic stadium to witness some of the finest sporting performances of all time – most famously the African American runner Jesse Owens, who eclipsed the best athletes the Nazis could pit against him in every event he entered. The Australians, with their antiquated training regimes and amateur ethos, valiantly confronted the intensely focused athletes of Germany, the United States and Japan. Behind the scenes was cut-throat wheeling and dealing, defiance of Hitler, and warm friendships among athletes.
What they did and saw in Berlin that hot, rainy summer influenced all that came after until their dying days.
Kitty Mackay was part of the story being one of only four women competitors all of whom required a ‘chaperone’! The Australian team were the first to arrive and were treated to the ultimate propaganda welcome. It was red carpet all the way. Kitty Mackay was about 6ft tall. According to some records she was a very popular dance partner for the tall blond ‘immaculately’ uniformed German SS Officers! Kitty also formed a lifelong friendship with Argentinian swimmer and opponent Jeanette Campbell. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeannette_Campbell