Shane Gould

At the age of 15, Shane Gould was the fastest woman swimmer over 100, 200, 400, 800 and 1500 metres. She won 5 individual medals at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games. By aged 16 the young Australian had retired from competitive swimming.

In her brief swimming career, Shane Gould broke 10 world records and won 13 Australian titles. The international Olympic Committee awarded her the Olympic Order, the Queen awarded her an MBE, and she was the 1972 Australian of the Year. Other awards include Australian Sports Hall of Fame, Legend of Australian Sport, National Living Treasure, and various Sportsman of the Year awards.

Turning her back on the sporting world and stardom, Shane married at 18 and moved with her husband to the Western Australia bush. There she and her husband lived in an alternative lifestyle away from modern conveniences. Together they raised 4 children. However, the marriage gradually broke down.

Weighed down by her failing marriage and confused about who she was and what direction her life should take, Shane became depressed.

For about a year I felt overcome by despair and hopelessness. My tears often turned to racking sobs of grief

At first when Shane was asked by a concerned minister if she thought she could be depressed, she was annoyed. She felt that he was accusing her of being weak. He explained that seeking help when you needed it showed strength of character not weakness. Shane Gould obviously did seek help and began taking antidepressants. Unfortunately [2], she stopped taking them after only 3 months. Later, after the Atlanta Games, the uncontrollable weeping returned.

One day I was in the garden… my red, tear swollen eyes concealed behind sunglasses. Then she heard a voice saying Why don't you just give up? Life isn't worth living.

Once again she started taking antidepressants. Shane says that she was able to stop the medication when she decided to leave her marriage. She felt that "the antidepressants had helped me stabilise my emotions so that I could think rationally" (p. 239)

Now Shane Gould describes experiencing depression as one of a number of tumble turns (changes in direction) of her life.


  • [1] Gould, Shane. Tumble turns: An autobiography. Sydney: HarperCollins, 2000.
  • [2] Antidepressants should normally be taken for much longer than this to prevent recurrence of depression.