Tributes flow for legend Betty Cuthbert

Posted August 08, 2017

Australian Olympic Historian Harry Gordon captures that moment best; "The heroine of the main stadium, the athlete who became known as Australia's Golden Girl, was a tearaway sprinter called Betty Cuthbert, then aged 18".

After being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in 1979, she spent much of her later life in a wheelchair as the disease took its toll.

She set 16 official world records, either as an individual or in relay teams.

The nine-time world record holder was elevated to legend status in The Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 1985 and is considered one of the greatest athletes Australia has ever produced.

She returned to the public eye when the Olympic Games were hosted by her home town of Sydney in 2000 and was one of the bearers of the Olympic flame at the opening ceremony.

Cuthbert was a four-time Olympic gold medallist, winning three at the 1956 Melbourne games in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay events as an 18-year-old.

Running what she later described as the only flawless race of her career, Cuthbert stormed to victory in 52.01 seconds, ahead of Britain's Ann Packer.

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"I realised from a very early age that God gave me a gift, and that gift was to run, and I wanted to use it to the best of my ability", she said.

Cuthbert was an inaugural inductee to the International Association of Athletics Federations Hall of Fame in March 2012 with Jesse Owens and Carl Lewis among others.

"Betty was an icon of Australian and global athletics and it is with great sadness that we learned of her passing this morning", stated Arbib.

Tributes have continued to flow for Cuthbert from the athletics world and beyond. "I'm so happy I got to meet such a tremendous and gracious role model, and Olympic champion".

The Australian Olympic Committee said an example of Cuthbert's humility was how she prepared for the first Olympics staged in Australia.

"Rest in peace Betty Cuthbert - an inspiration and a champion on and off the track", tweeted Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, while fellow track legend Cathy Freeman said: "Thank you for the inspirational memories, Betty Cuthbert". "I've had some twinges this morning", said Gosper.