Four-time Olympic champion Cuthbert dies aged 79

'Golden Girl' Betty Cuthbert dies, aged 79

Australian sprinter Betty Cuthbert, the only athlete to have won the Olympic 100m, 200m and 400 m titles, has died aged 79 after battling multiple sclerosis for almost half a century, Athletics Australia said on Monday.

Having set a new Olympic record in the heats of 11.4 seconds, she claimed gold in the 100m before also taking out the 200m event.

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.

"Betty was tragically diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1969 and she has battled the disease courageously".

Later that year, she won Olympic gold medals in the 100, 200 and 4x100 on home soil in Melbourne, becoming the "Golden Girl" of the Games.

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Cuthbert remained strongly religious throughout her life, a quality to which she attributes her fortitude in the face of adversity.

She was honoured with a statue cast in bronze outside the Melbourne Cricket Ground, the main 1956 Olympic stadium.

She retired to the privacy and peace of her parent's commercial nursery in Ermington, the western Sydney suburb where she grew up.

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.

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

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MARLENE MATHEWS, Cuthbert's greatest Australian rival - "I have never met anyone that had such great faith and determination". Sydney 2000 Olympic Champion Cathy Freeman was one of those to follow in the esteemed footsteps of the sporting legend. She remains the only Australian non-swimmer to win four or more gold medals.

She won a fourth at the Tokyo Olympics eight years later after returning from retirement.

Cuthbert is a member of the Sport Australia Hall of Fame, whose chairman John Bertrand described the athlete as a "true inspiration and role model to all Australians".

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull led tributes on social media calling the runner an "inspiration and a champion on and off the track".

"It was the only flawless race I have ever run", she later said of that victory.

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