Canberra: Betty Cuthbert, Australia’s most successful Olympic track and field athlete, has passed away aged 79.
Athletics Australia announced her death on Monday while describing her as an “Olympic legend”, Xinhua news agency reports.
“Rest in peace Betty Cuthbert – an inspiration and a champion on and off the track,” Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull wrote on social media on Monday.
Turnbull’s sentiment was echoed by Opposition leader Bill Shorten who wrote, “Rest in peace Betty Cuthbert, forever a golden girl.”
John Bertrand, chairman of the Sport Australia Hall of Fame, remembered Cuthbert as a perfect role model.
“Betty was a true inspiration and role model to all Australians,” he said in a statement.
Dubbed the “Golden Girl” of Australian athletics, Cuthbert won gold medals in the 100 and 200-meter sprints as well as the 4×100 meter relay at the Melbourne Olympics in 1956 aged just 18.
Eight years later in Tokyo, she became the only person in history to have won Olympic gold in 100, 200 and 400 meters. She remains the only Australian non-swimmer to win four or more gold medals.
Cuthbert also competed at the 1960 Rome Olympics but she did not make it through the heats due to an injury.
After being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in 1979, she spent much of her later life in a wheelchair as the disease took its toll.
Cuthbert was the first Australian to be inducted into the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Hall of Fame upon its creation in 2012 alongside Carl Lewis, Jesse Owens and others.