RIP Betty Cuthbert
Australia remembers Betty Cuthbert as its Golden Girl, who won gold medals
running in the 100 and 200 metre events and the 4×100 metre relay at the 1956
Melbourne Olympics. She won another gold medal in the 400m sprint at the
1964 Tokyo Olympics. She would inspire generations of sportspeople and donate
her four gold medals to the National Sports Museum at the MCG.
By the Sydney Olympics in 2000, multiple sclerosis had confined Betty to a
wheelchair. Assisted by Raylene Boyle, she carried the Olympic torch at the
Sydney Olympic Stadium. In 2004 when the Olympic flame was on its way to
Athens, Betty Cuthbert carried it into the MCG, where she had won her three
1956 gold medals. By helping to educate the community and raise funds to foster
Olympic sport and counter multiple sclerosis, she exemplified the Olympic spirit
and raised awareness of the impacts of multiple sclerosis.
Her achievements have been honoured in many ways. She was awarded an AM
and an MBE, named as an Australian National Treasure, inducted into the NSW
Hall of Champions, the Sport Australia Hall of Fame, the Athletics Australia Hall of
Fame and the International Association of Athletics Federations’ Hall of Fame. She
has had streets, a grandstand, a school gymnasium, a scholarship, a fellowship, a
Sydney ferry, a rose and a Western Australian park named in her honour and the
Melbourne Cricket Ground now hosts both the Betty Cuthbert Lounge and a
Betty Cuthbert statue.
News of Betty Cuthbert’s death prompted a pause for a minute’s silence in her
honour at the 2017 World Athletics Championships in London. Her funeral on 16
August will, however, be a private ceremony at Western Australia’s Mandurah
Performing Arts Centre. Betty’s family believe they acted in accordance with
Betty’s wishes in declining the State funerals offered by the premiers of both
New South Wales and Western Australia.