Betty Cuthbert: Golden Girl

Betty

Cuthbert is an Australian icon; the Golden Girl of Australian athletics.

 As

an unheralded 18-year-old she won gold medals in the 100m, 200m and 4 x 100m

relay at the Melbourne Olympics in 1956.

 She

was 18, straw-blonde, and she bolted into public consciousness from virtually

nowhere. So poorly did she rate her chances of even being chosen to represent

Australia that she bought tickets to attend as a spectator.

She

overshadowed her experienced teammates Shirley Strickland and Marlene Mathews,

and went on to become becoming the first Australian, male or female, to win

three gold medals at a single Games.

Cuthbert

missed Rome in 1960 through injury and subsequently retired. But it didn’t last

long and she returned at the 1962 Commonwealth Games in Perth, to help

Australia to a Gold medal in the sprint relay.

She

began concentrating on the 400m race and went on to win Gold again at Tokyo in

1964 in the inaugural women’s 400m event.

A

woman of great religious faith, Cuthbert was enticed to run in Tokyo by a

nagging inner voice. “Sure, I ran the race,” she said later, “But God took

over. He picked them (her feet) up, and I put them down.”

During

the 2000 Sydney Olympics, sitting in a wheelchair and accompanied by Dawn

Fraser, she carried the Olympic Torch in the stadium, before Cathy Freeman lit

the Olympic Flame.