John Oravainen embraced every young migrant's dream of a new life in Australia, with its abundant sunshine and summer sport.
But that dream was quickly tainted when his family arrived in Mount Isa in the late 1940s, in one of the hottest summers then on record. It's a wonder they didn't quickly turn around and return to their cold birthplace of Finland, home of Santa Claus and his reindeer.
Fortunately, they decided to call Mount Isa home and soon their adopted town was calling him one of its sporting sons.
Oravainen was a regular lad, skylarking with his school mates at the local pool, when he started to take a more serious interest in swimming lessons which in turn lead to his joining the swimming club.
Through the years, he swam his way through weekly club meets eventually gaining selection for the 1960 and 1961 North Qld Swimming Championships in Townsville.
While many swimmers lapsed with their "would've, could've, should've" attitude, Oravainen's quiet determination and strong training ethic saw him swim into national contention at his first State Titles in 1962.
Yet another dream came true that year when he was selected, alongside Olympian and Mount Isa swimmer, Bill Burton, for the Australian Swimming Team to compete in the British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Perth.
Oravainen had been swimming in Burton's wake for several years and he knew this was the year he could swim into medal contention - a Silver Medal in the 440 yards (400m) Individual Medley.
Australia added another Silver Medal to its tally and Mount Isa had a second Australian and International Swimming Champion (Oravainen brought home a Silver Medal while Burton came home with two Silver Medals).
Such was the friendly competition between the two swimmers that they would continue to via for selection at each tier of swimming championships for several years although not always on an equal financial footing.
This was evidenced when three of the four Mount Isa swimmers named in the 1963 Queensland Team were denied financial assistance to attend the Australian Swimming Championships in Perth that year.
How the Queensland Amateur Swimming Association came to its conclusion was sorely contested by Mount Isa Amateur Swimming Club to no avail; Oravainen and club mates Lennette Jones and Lyn Abbot had to finance their own expenses to compete at the National Titles in Perth. Burton and his other team mates had his full expenses covered by the QASA.
Following this debacle, Oravainen moved to Sydney, for eighteen months, to train under Don Talbot in the lead up to the Australian Titles and possible selection for the 1964 Tokyo Summer Olympics.
Fortuitously, Talbot was named second coach to Arthur Cusack, national coach, of the Australian Olympic Swimming Team.
Cusack had earlier coached Burton to Olympic standard and now Talbot was coach to Oravainen.
Another dream was realised when Oravainen joined the Australian Swimming Team at their Olympic training camp in Ayr.
Once again, his Finnish trait of strength in adversity came to the fore as he doubled his training schedule and lengthened his swim coverage to five miles per day to make up for his late preparation due to a thumb injury before leaving Sydney.
On the eve of the Team's departure for Tokyo, Talbot, was not confident about Oravainen's times or inclusion in the men's medley relay team.
"The Australian men's medley relay team is not strong this year without Murray Rose and the Americans are our main worry."
"John will be very fortunate to make the finals", Talbot said. But Oravainen surprised everyone when he swam into the semi-finals, not in his beloved medley but in the 200m breaststroke event and was narrowly beaten into fourth place in the semis, in 2mins 38.3 sec, and missed out on the finals.
Never one to brook excuses for his performances, he acknowledged nerves got the better of him on the starting blocks.
"The atmosphere at the Olympic Games was overwhelming for a kid from the bush", he told the Mount Isa Mail on his return home.
The Tokyo 1964 Games brought the Olympics to Asia for the first time, expanding the multi-cultural community both in competition and spectators.
"Even the Perth Commonwealth Games didn't prepare me for the magnitude of the Olympics and the Opening and Closing Ceremonies were experiences I won't ever forget."
Within weeks of returning home to Mount Isa, he welcomed fellow Olympians, Kevin Berry and Bob Windle to the Mount Isa Memorial Swimming Pool.
Berry, the 200m Olympic butterfly champion and Windle, the Olympic 1,500m titleholder along with local Olympians, Oravainen and Burton, brought a fleeting glimpse of world class swimming to the mining town in the spinifex.
Six weeks later, at the State Swimming Championships, Oravainen won the open 200m breaststroke final from record-holder and 1960 Olympian, Bill Burton, in 1m 14.7 sec, but failed to break Burton's State Record.
And just as Oravainen swam in the wake of Burton for many years, he soon had another local lad extend his strokes with an eye on future Olympic representation - Bill Sweetenham.
The migrant from Finland, who overcame the obstacles of learning a new language and lifestyle in a new country, and who dreamed to compete at an Olympic Games, John Oravainen went on to achieve each goal with precision and dedication; traits which ought to be acknowledged, not as a forgotten Mount Isa Olympian, but as a deserved Mount Isa Sporting Champion.
Researched and written by Kim-Maree Burton.
Photographs supplied by John Oravainen.
Information sourced from Australian Olympic Committee, Courier Mail and Mount Isa Mail newspapers, and John Oravainen.