Australia Day Honours 2018: Golden Girl Betty earns highest accolade

AUSTRALIA’S golden girl of athletics Betty Cuthbert heads an impressive batch of local recipients in the Australia Day 2018 Honours List.

The Ermington flash, who died last year aged 79, was made a Companion of the Order of Australia – a posthumous accolade for eminent service to the sport of athletics as a fourfold Olympic champion and as a role model, fundraiser and advocatefor research into a cure for multiple sclerosis.

Cuthbert’s story will continue to inspire Australian athletes for generations to come. She attended Ermington Public School as a youngster and went on to taste Olympic glory and become one of the greatest sprinters of all time.

The legendary Cuthbert remains the only athlete in history to win Olympic gold in the 100m, 200m and 400m events.

Raised in Ermington, she first sprinted into the nation’s hearts as a fresh-faced 18-year-old at the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games, where she set an Olympic record in the 100m and a world record in the 200m to win both events.

The teen sensation claimed a third gold medal running the final leg in the 4x100m relay, again in a world record time.

At the Melbourne Olympics, Cuthbert won every sprint medal available to women and was the first Australian to win three gold medals at one Games, earning her the nickname of Australia’s “golden girl”.

Injury would rob her of the chance to defend her titles at the 1960 Rome Games but she returned at Tokyo in 1964 to win her fourth gold medal, this time in the 400m which was to be the final race of her career.

Cuthbert was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 1965; was inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 1994; named an Australian National Treasure in 1998 and entered the Athletics Australia Hall of Fame in 2000.

She was also the first Australian inducted into the International Association of Athletics Federations Hall of Fame when it was founded in 2012, alongside legends such as Jesse Owens and Carl Lewis.

In 1969 she discovered she had multiple sclerosis and would battle the condition for the rest of her life. In 2000, she was one of the final bearers to hand the Olympic torch to Cathy Freeman before she lit the flame at the Sydney Games.