Our super-star swimmer

Alva Wyatt still remembers the roar of the crowds cheering and the indescribable feeling of being part of the Australian swimming team taking out both gold and silver at the 1958 Commonwealth and 1960 Olympic Games.

And Alva, who has swum in numerous countries over many years, still loves working out in the pool at every opportunity she gets!

The 79-year-old, forever remembered in the halls of sporting fame as swimming legend Alva Merlin Colquhoun, is loving life at Uniting AgeWell Preston Community where she’s been glued to the screen watching the swimming at the Tokyo Olympics and the current Paralympics.

“Isn’t it just wonderful?” Alva says. “It’s great to be able to watch them and understand what they are feeling, and know the extent of the training and dedication it’s taken them to get there!”

Yet Preston’s Super Fish, who has taught hundreds and hundreds of Victorian kids to swim over the years and who counts Dawn Fraser as one of her good friends, is surprisingly modest about her achievements.

“I love swimming,” she says simply. “Swimming is like walking … it’s second nature to me.”

Alva moved in to Preston Community in the middle of last year, and enjoys the good food, exercise, art and craft classes and comfort. And of course all the activities and fun and hype they’ve been engaged in during the Olympics!

Meanwhile Alva loves reading non-fictional material, listening to pop music and of course watching sport on TV, especially horse riding and swimming.

Splash back to the past

Alva was born in Brisbane in 1942 and started swimming at the age of five – following doctor’s orders!

“I had asthma as a kid, and the doctor told my Dad that the controlled breathing required in swimming would help it. And it did!”

Alva soon started making waves in the swimming world, and took up competitive freestyle and butterfly as a teenager living in Melbourne.

Alva made her first appearance for Australia at the 1958 British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Cardiff, Wales, where she won a set of medals. Alva, combined with Dawn Fraser, Lorraine Crapp and Sandra Morgan to win gold in the 4×110-yard freestyle relay, won silver as part of the 4×110-yard medley team and bronze in the 110-yard freestyle. Alva then went on to win Olympic silver at the Rome 1960 Olympics as part of the 4x100m freestyle relay team.

She is also remembered for solving a dispute at a team meeting during the Rome Olympics.

And Alva can still recall the intensive training, the hours and hours spent practicing in the pool, the thrill of being part of a team and representing her country.

“They were really good years,” she says.

Family life

Alva was married and had two children – she taught both of them to swim, and both are good swimmers. It's clearly in the blood - her grandchildren are all at home in the water too!

Alva spent most of her life in rural Victoria in a place called Baddaginnie, some 12km from Benalla. She taught swimming to hundreds and hundreds of children over the years – and also loved horse riding!

Alva’s motto is simple” “Be happy in life.” And it's a motto she is still clearly living up to!