Clare Dennis was born the third of six children to a police constable. In the early 1920s the family moved to Clovelly (NSW), a small beach-side Sydney suburb. She joined her elder sister Thora at the Sydney Ladies’ Swimming Club and started competing in interclub events. Thora, an Australian junior swimming champion and freestyle record holder, was selected for the Australian team for the Olympic Games in 1928 but was not sent because she was considered too young. In 1931, Clare won her first Australian 220 yd breaststroke title. One year later, she broke the world record in the 200 metre breaststroke with 3:08.6.
Donations from her late father’s colleagues from the Sydney Police helped her to attend the 1932 Olympics at Los Angeles. In the heats, she was almost disqualified for wearing a swimsuit that allegedly was not according to the regulations showing too much of her shoulder. Ultimately, the charge was dismissed and she went on to win the final with an Olympic and world record of 3:06.3. After returning from Los Angeles, Clare Dennis began work in Sydney’s largest department store but continued her swimming career. In 1933, she broke the 100 breaststroke world record in 1:24.6. The next year, she became the first Australian woman to win a gold medal in the British Empire Games by winning the 200 yards breaststroke in London. In a controversial decision, she was not considered for the 1936 Australian swimming team, and she subsequently retired from competitive swimming but eventually took up professional coaching. In 1942 she married George Golding, a police detective and former Olympic track athlete. Later, she became a masseuse and owned two hairdressing salons in Sydney suburbs. They finally settled in Manly, where she died of cancer. In 1981, she was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame and in 1985 into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame.