Son of a ship’s chandler, Fred Lane took up swimming at the age of four after he was saved by his brother from drowning in Sydney Harbour. After winning multiple All-Schools’ Championships in the early 1890s, Lane joined the East Sydney Amateur Swimming Club in 1895 and soon rose to be the world’s top amateur swimmer at the turn of 20th century. He won the 200 yds and 440 yds New South Wales titles in 1897, Australasian 100 yds title in 1898 and New South Wales 220, 300, 440, 500, 880 and 1760 yds titles in 1898-1899. Sponsored by businessman and sportsman Mark Foy, Lane moved to England in summer of 1899 and settled in Blackpool, working as a clerk at a legal firm. Joining Blackpool Swimming Club, he won the British Amateur Swimming Association (ASA) 220 yds and quarter-mile salt water titles in 1899, 220 yds title in 1900, and 100 yds and 220 yds titles in 1902.
Lane competed at the 1900 Olympics, where he won gold medals in 200 m freestyle and 200 m obstacle course events. While winning the ASA 100 yds title in 1902, Lane became the first man to swim 100 yds in one-minute flat and, while winning the 1902 220 yds title, Lane clocked 2:28.6, which in 1974 was ratified by the Fédération Internationale de Natation Amateur (FINA) as the first world record for 200 metres. In October 1902, Lane also became the first man to swim 100 yds less than a minute by clocking 59.6 at Leicester Baths.
Lane retired from swimming at the end of 1902 and returned to Australia in 1903. He later became a master printer and partner in the printing and stationery firm Smith & Lane in Sydney. He was also known as an art collector, who had a fine collection of the works of the marine artists Jack Spurling and John Allcott as well as paintings and literary works by Norman Lindsay. Lane wrote and printed a book on Lindsay's bookplates.
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