Recent results suggest Australian distance running is in an exciting renaissance phase. Three runners have stood out and recently produced Australian records on the world stage.
Australian sprinting legend Betty Cuthbert has died at the age of 79, with an Olympic record still unmatched.
Cuthbert remains the only athlete, man or woman, to win Olympic gold in the 100m, 200m and 400m.
She is a four-time Olympic Games gold medallist, winning three at the 1956 Melbourne Games in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay events. Her gold in the 400m came eight years later at the Tokyo Olympics.
Cuthbert, who set nine world records during her career, died overnight after a long battle with multiple sclerosis.
Dubbed the Golden Girl of Australian athletics, she was the country’s first inductee into the IAAF Hall of Fame in the inaugural year in 2012, along with US icons Jesse Owens, Carl Lewis and 21 others.
Her lunge at the line in the 100m at the Melbourne Olympics is captured in bronze outside the Melbourne Cricket Ground, the scene of her 1956 track and field glory.
She failed to defend the titles at the 1960 Games in Rome due to injury.
But she returned to the Olympics four years later after a two-year retirement from the sport, winning a fourth gold medal and becoming the first athlete in the world to do so in four different events.
Athletics Australia, where Cuthbert is also a Hall of Fame member, confirmed her death on Monday.
“Athletics Australia is saddened to confirm the passing of Olympic legend Betty Cuthbert, Our thoughts with her family and friends,” the body tweeted.
The Sport Australia Hall of Fame, of which Cuthbert is a member, also offered their condolences.
“Betty was a true inspiration and role model to all Australians,” chairman John Bertrand said.
“Her feats on the track brought together Australians as one. She loved the country and we loved her.”
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, NSW sport minister Stuart Ayres, former world champion marathon runner Robert de Castella and tennis great Margaret Court were among those to pay tribute.
Cuthbert was born in Sydney in 1938, a twin to sister Marie.
A wheelchair-bound Cuthbert, who learned she had multiple sclerosis in 1969, was part of the torch relay at the opening ceremony of the Sydney Olympics in 2000.
GOLD – 1956 Melbourne Olympics 100m
GOLD – 1956 Melbourne Olympics 200m (world record)
GOLD – 1956 Melbourne Olympics 4x100m (world record)
GOLD – 1964 Tokyo Olympics 400m
INDUCTEE – IAAF Hall of Fame (2012)
INDUCTEE – Athletics Australia Hall of Fame (2000)
INDUCTEE – Sport Australia Hall of Fame (1985)