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Olympic gold medalist Betty Cuthbert offered state funeral


Four-time Olympic champion Betty Cuthbert has died, aged 79, following a decades-long battle with multiple sclerosis.

Gosper, 83, is best known in Australia for his time as an International Olympic Committee vice-president.

"It's a very sad day, there's no doubt about it", Freeman said.

"Athletics Australia, and indeed the Australian athletics community, extend our most honest condolences to Betty's family and friends, including her dedicated carer Rhonda Gillam, at this sad time".

But perhaps the most powerful moment of her public life was when she was a final torchbearer in the opening ceremony of the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games.

Cuthbert did not compete at the Rome Olympics in 1960 due to injury, but added to her gold medal tally in Tokyo in 1964 with her victory in the 400m.

Cuthbert won the 100m, 200m and anchored the team that won the 4 x 100m relay that year, forever cementing herself in the hearts of Australians as the Golden Girl of Australian track and field.

"Betty battled her illness for many years and showed tremendous courage, but more importantly she always managed to smile".

Tennis player Margaret Court paid tribute to Cuthbert, saying Australia had lost a sporting legend.

"She just needed to talk to a fatherly figure and that cemented a huge friendship that has continued right through between us". She was one of the inaugural inductees to the IAAF Hall of Fame in 2012. "It was this faith that kept her going for so long and through the most hard times".

She remains the only Olympic track athlete to have won the 100m, 200m and 400m and she set nine world records during her career, four of them in 1958, in the 60 metres, 100 yards, 200 metres, 220 yards and 440 yards. "I'm so happy I got to meet such a tremendous and gracious role model, and Olympic champion".

At Athens 2004, swimmer Ian Thorpe became the only Australian to have more gold medals than Cuthbert with five.

The retirement lasted less than two years, being revoked before the 1962 Empire Games in Perth, where she helped Australia to a gold medal in the sprint relay. I just think how tough she was.

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